3rd District safe for Womack, tough for Democrats

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Announcements have been pouring in in recent weeks for every office from state representative to governor. One such announcement was by Republican Thomas Brewer of Rogers, who said he would challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, for the 3rd Congressional District seat.

But according to Dr. Jay Barth, a professor of politics at Hendrix College in Conway, while Brewer's quest is an uphill battle, there is one group facing more dire prospects.

"I think the bigger issue is that it's tough for a Democrat to compete in the third district," Barth said. "The incumbents since 1966 have all been Republicans."

THE HAMMERSCHMIDT HOLD
That was the year former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt won the seat he held until he retired in 1993. Hammerschmidt’s first win was also the first time a Republican had won the seat since 1874, during Reconstruction, when Democrat Thomas Gunter beat then-U.S. Rep. William Wilshire, a Republican who went on to hold the 4th Congressional District seat and later practiced law in Washington, D.C., until he died in 1888.

From 1966 on, Republicans have only solidified their hold on the Northwest Arkansas seat, much as the Democrats had done in the decades following the Civil War, World War I and World War II.

Hammerschmidt, a Harrison native and then-chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, won the 3rd District the same year Republican Winthrop Rockefeller won the governor's mansion, becoming the state's only Republican member of Congress and making Northwest Arkansas solid Republican territory while the rest of the state largely elected waves of Democrats until the elections of 2010 and 2012.

"There have been times when Democrats continue to challenge the seat, obviously most closely with (Bill) Clinton in 1974. On some other occasions, they put up good challenges,” Barth said.

NO MONEY FOR DEMOCRATS
The times Democrats have traditionally felt they had best chances, Barth said, have been when the seat was open. But Republicans have swept the elections, with Tim Hutchinson winning in 1992, Asa Hutchinson (now a Republican candidate for governor) winning in 1996, now-U.S. Sen. John Boozman winning in 2001 and then-Rogers Mayor Steve Womack winning in 2010.

Womack's Democratic challenger that year, former Fayetteville City Attorney David Whitaker, now a state representative, said the biggest problem through the last half-decade has not necessarily been formidable opponents.

"The biggest problem is that it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the third," he said. "The first thing you get from donors and supporters is that you're wasting your time."

To be competitive in the district, Whitaker said he was told he'd need to raise millions for his race.

"I had at least one consultant suggest to go after an incumbent, I'd need $1.5 million to $2 million and you're hard-pressed to raise $100,000 as a Democrat,” Whitaker explained.

DEMOGRAPHIC, MEDIA FACTORS
The figures are similar to what State Sen. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan, said would be needed for a race he is exploring in the 4th District. The difference between the districts comes down to size, with the fourth stretching across most of the bottom part of the state and north into Madison County, encompassing four different media markets including Little Rock, Texarkana-Shreveport, Monroe, La.-El Dorado and Fort Smith-Fayetteville-Rogers.

Compare that to the 3rd District, which is primarily comprised of only the Fort Smith-Fayetteville-Rogers media market, which is nearly half the size of the Little Rock or Shreveport-Texarkana markets, and therefore cheaper for advertising, and it quickly becomes obvious what a strong hold Republicans have on the third district seat.

But the traditionally socially conservative area may be changing as the area becomes more populated with individuals from more moderate states, Barth said. Those individuals are typically Wal-Mart Stores vendors and others associated with large employers, such as Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt and the University of Arkansas.

"There is some sense that some folks coming to Northwest Arkansas now are not quite as socially conservative as others and the Republican Party, if it maintains this hard-right attitude on social issues, could begin to turn off voters who are from other areas and more cosmopolitan when it comes to social issues."

Another factor is the influx of Hispanics to the area, he added, which in time is likely to result in a larger Latino voting bloc.

NO NUMBERS FOR DEMOCRATS
But those two factors will not change the area's politics instantly, Barth said, adding that he still believes Republicans have a lock on the 3rd District for the foreseeable future. He said the Northwest Arkansas faction of the GOP could become more moderate, resulting in change from the bottom before it translates to a moderation of politics at the Congressional level.

Whitaker said running a local campaign for state representative last year was very different than running for Congress, his first campaign and one that saw him receive a little less than 28% of the vote and raise about $70,000.

"One of the good things so far about Arkansas politics is that, at least when we're dealing with state house races, we seem to be far more focused on local issues with the local populous. We stayed far more focused on that instead of the national debate, which is going nowhere for local Democrats,” Whitaker said.

As for the future of the 3rd District and Democrats, Whitaker doesn't see change happening any time soon.

"The numbers just aren't there for Democrats."

WOMACK’S BALANCE
Barth said while he doesn't think a "moderate" Republican can win in the third, he sees Womack doing a good job balancing the different groups that make up the Republican Party, meaning Brewer's primary challenge is unlikely to gain momentum.

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"There's no signs that there's a major uprising against Womack that (Brewer is) going to take advantage of,” Barth said. “I think Womack has done a pretty good job of keeping the peace between establishment and Tea Party factions."

He said while other members of Congress may face challenges due to angering activists or the party base, this race won't involve any such excitement. But Brewer said in an e-mail that he felt the support was in place for his candidacy.

"People in the Third are eager to have change in Washington. Everyone that I have spoken to thus far has been exceptionally supportive and ready to vote for somebody who will be fiscally conservative in Washington. Womack will have to raise massive amounts of money to defend his fiscally liberal voting record to the Third District."

Barth said while Brewer may be excited to jump into the race, he does not see the candidacy going anywhere.

"I don't think there's any evidence that this will be an interesting race," Barth said. "(Womack's) a pretty good fit for the district, it seems."

Five Star Votes: 
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Comments

So is Brewer to the "left" or the "right" of Congressman Womack?

Amidst all that speculation, what we didn't hear was how Brewer stood on the issues compared to Womack. I'm sure both of them are more conservative than I am, probably way more conservative than I am, but I want to know which one is the lesser of the two evils.

Fiscal Conservation (on the right)

Brewer is to the "right" of Womack in that he will not vote for increased government spending. He will not vote for increased taxation. And he will not vote for increased government surveillance. He will fight for the opposite of each of these. Womack is a fiscal liberal; Brewer is a hardline fiscal conservative. The lives of our children depend on that. (Please see comment below!)

Womack Not as Good a Fit as Suggested

Womack is not as comfortable a fit as article writer, Saylor, and Professor Barth may think. The challenge is in making this known. Saylor is correct; Democrats face a stark challenge in the district because it is, by and large, a conservative district. Most people in the district, accordingly, would very quickly say they do not want increased government spending. Yet, since the beginning of 2013 alone, Womack has voted YES on... 1) 4 increases of federal spending (Possibly five; I have not read the text of HR2217: "Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act" yet) 2) a vote to suspend the debt limit 3) a vote instructing the Treasury Department to continue borrowing to pay the governments bills and debts. A more extensive look at the years before this only extends the government spending. People have to realize that as much as an argument can be made for a benevolent government and even benevolent Republicans, increasing the debt and failing to decrease it substantially is the worst crime we can commit for our children. Additionally, Womack has voted YES for additional increase in government surveillance: CISPA, FISA and the Patriot Act Extension. The people of Northwest Arkansas are only content with Womack if they have been deceived by his smooth and convincing arguments. Actions speak louder than words. Womack is a fiscal liberal consistently voting for increased government spending and increased government surveillance. Brewer is a fiscal conservative who will NOT vote for increases in government spending and will NOT vote for increases in taxation, nor in any measure vote for an increase in government infringement in our lives. That is what Northwest Arkansas stands for.
Womack is not as comfortable a fit as article writer, Saylor, and Professor Barth may think. The challenge is in making this known. Saylor is correct; Democrats face a stark challenge in the district because it is, by and large, a conservative district. Most people in the district, accordingly, would very quickly say they do not want increased government spending. Yet, since the beginning of 2013 alone, Womack has voted YES on... 1) 4 increases of federal spending (Possibly five; I have not read the text of HR2217: "Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act" yet) 2) a vote to suspend the debt limit 3) a vote instructing the Treasury ...>> Read the entire comment.

Womack is a liberal in a suit

Womack has never really had a challenger. He has only submitted one bill that I know so far and that was a tax on internet sales. That's not a conservative value. He has never submitted a bill to declare that a human fetus is alive at conception, as is necessary according to the ruling of Roe vs Wade. He's increased spending, increased the debt, his constitutionality rating is at 60% while the last Democrat congressman in the state had a 56%. He is pro-illegal immigration and will vote for amnesty. Oh, he'll be better in the months coming up to the election but his record is horrible right now.

You are wrong on at least one point

True conservationism doesn't fight the social issue fight. Personal freedom is utmost. Roe v Wade got bandied about in order to appeal to the social warriors who vote on one issue and can be manipulated because of that. Ever actually doing anything about it would drop a huge chunk of voters out of their rolls. But real true conservative values aren't trying to overturn it.

I disagree with you.

Real Conservative values consider the right to Life being the first of three inalienable rights.

Good fit

Congressman Womack by no means is a liberal. He is one part of the House. The House has a slim majority. The House has 1/3 of the control overall. The difficulty is not stopping spending or shutting down programs. That is impossible right now. Steve along with the leadership in the House are working to stop bills that we do not like. If they vote for something it is because it was happening without them and they work to water down or reduce the spending and vote for it. If Steve and others do not work with the reasonable Dems and try to control what happens the other side will not work with them. Steve and the House do pass dozens of bills that we would really like but those bills die at Harry Reid and the Senate. Ideally what I would like to see happen in DC is not realistic right now. it will not improve unless 2014 goes our way in the Senate.
Congressman Womack by no means is a liberal. He is one part of the House. The House has a slim majority. The House has 1/3 of the control overall. The difficulty is not stopping spending or shutting down programs. That is impossible right now. Steve along with the leadership in the House are working to stop bills that we do not like. If they vote for something it is because it was happening without them and they work to water down or reduce the spending and vote for it. If Steve and others do not work with the reasonable Dems and try to control what happens the other side will not work with them. Steve and the House do pass dozens of bills that we would really like ...>> Read the entire comment.

Rivervalley Conservatives

Can Congressman Womack defend his seat?

With his irresponsible voting record concerning money and the government, Congressman Womack finds disappointment in his constituency, the hard-working businessmen and women of Northwest Arkansas. In a district where hard work and entrepreneurship is generally agreed on as the path to success, the people of NWA have voted for him merely because he was a better choice than a Democrat. In short, they voted for the party ticket. They had no other viable options. With Thomas Brewer challenging Congressman Womack, the 3rd district finds someone that reflects the traditional economic values of their heritage, defending a free market and pulling the government back into its Constitutional limits. Will the social changes due to an influx of an national and international population be enough to allow Womack to hold his seat? Perhaps. but it is more likely that those with left-leaning values vote toward the left, or not at all? Due to the business nature of those moving into the area, they are more likely to be fiscal conservatives, regardless of their leanings on social matters. Congressman Womack is a talented speaker and people-pleaser, putting a spin on everything he does to make it sound better. People will (I hope) catch on and realize what's being done. While he has experience presenting himself, he has never been seriously challenged and never been tried through competition for this particular seat. His elections in both 2010 and have been handed to him on a silver platter. He doesn't reflect the views of Northwest Arkansas. Whether Republican or Democrat, the freedom-loving nature of Arkansans resents his support of surveillance and taxation legislations. With that being said, I find that Thomas Brewer has a shot at beating an incumbent. With a measure of determination and the backbone to stand firm in the values he believes in, he can count on the 3rd district to find that he will represent them consistently and uphold his oath to our Constitution without any ambiguity.

Excellent comment

I sincerely hope people take the time to read this response. You are absolutely right that Womack has not had any true competitor. Let's not understate his opponent based on past elections. BREWER CAN WIN THIS ELECTION.

Keep Dreaming

Brewer has NO chance.

Does Womack have Tea Party Support?

I must again debate Professor Barth on this point. Does Womack really have Tea Party support? Not based on my observations. When Brewer announced his candidacy at the Washington County Tea Party assembly on Monday, June 10th, he was met with many applauses and concluded with a standing ovation. Then until now, Tea Party support has been flowing in for Mr. Brewer!

Congressman Womack

Congressman Womack has been an outstanding representative of the 3rd district. He strongly opposed ObamaCare, voted to avoid the fiscal cliff and protected 98% of Arkansans from drastic increase in federal taxes. He voted for the Ryan Plan to balance the budget in 10 years. I am extremely pleased with my pro business Congressman

Not supported by Tea Party

How can anyone believe that Womack is supported by the Tea Party. He is a sponsor of the Internet Tax, he votes for the debt ceiling and supports the Patriot Act, NDAA and his voting record for freedom or liberty is barely over the 50% mark. He is nothing but a big government Republican that thinks that if you don't get a raise in spending then it's called a cut. Paul Ryan's budget just cut the raise in spending and took over 10 years to balance the budget. To be supported by the Tea Party he would have to show actual cuts, like Rand Paul or Connie Macks Penny plan the gave no increase in spending and cut 1% a year that would balace the budget in 5 years or less. Womack need to go and it is great that a true liberty and fiscal conservative republican is putting pressure on him. Thomas Brewer should not be under estimated.
How can anyone believe that Womack is supported by the Tea Party. He is a sponsor of the Internet Tax, he votes for the debt ceiling and supports the Patriot Act, NDAA and his voting record for freedom or liberty is barely over the 50% mark. He is nothing but a big government Republican that thinks that if you don't get a raise in spending then it's called a cut. Paul Ryan's budget just cut the raise in spending and took over 10 years to balance the budget. To be supported by the Tea Party he would have to show actual cuts, like Rand Paul or Connie Macks Penny plan the gave no increase in spending and cut 1% a year that would balace the budget in 5 years or less. ...>> Read the entire comment.

Womack Has Tea Party Support? On Which Planet?

Womack has never been a friend to the tea party. His voting record is not in line with tea party principles of LIMITED government, LESS spending, and LOWER taxes. Womack's record is not in line with the 3rd District. It is refreshing to know we actually have a choice this time. It would be foolish to underestimate a real guy like Brewer just because some elites in the media think they know what voters want.

Womack's Discrepancies

Womack voted to avoid the fiscal cliff, only to push it down the road a few months, at which point he voted for a bill instructing the Treasury Department to print whatever was necessary to pay the government's bills, essentially a means of skirting around the debt ceiling and partially nullifying it (that part of the spending is not subject to the "debt ceiling"). This only increases the debt and removes further checks on government spending. A 10-year balanced budget is a bit of a joke, considering spending increases even as every Republican touts the need for budget cuts. Womack has voted for increases in government spending 4 times since January 1, 2013 alone. This seems like hypocrisy: "I care deeply to balance the budget, but I will continue to vote for increased spending." I don't have a problem with Womack personally; I have a major problem with this discrepancy. Also, Womack has voted in clear contradiction to the Constitution beyond the inherent problem in creating more debt: he has voted for increased surveillance programs.CISPA, FISA and the Patriot Act Extension clearly go against the "Due Process" required by the 4th and 5th Amendments in the Bill of Rights (not Bill of Privileges) (Do we remember that anymore concerning surveillance: no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, paraphrased. The Supreme Court has ruled clearly that the Bill of Rights protects a right to privacy. Ample court cases and jurisprudence have solidified this).
Womack voted to avoid the fiscal cliff, only to push it down the road a few months, at which point he voted for a bill instructing the Treasury Department to print whatever was necessary to pay the government's bills, essentially a means of skirting around the debt ceiling and partially nullifying it (that part of the spending is not subject to the "debt ceiling"). This only increases the debt and removes further checks on government spending. A 10-year balanced budget is a bit of a joke, considering spending increases even as every Republican touts the need for budget cuts. Womack has voted for increases in government spending 4 times since January 1, 2013 alone. ...>> Read the entire comment.

Expert?

Barth is a liberal progressive intellectual who has served on the Democrat party, Planned Parenthood board, and the ACLU. Of course he would mostly talk about dems and think Womack, a liberal (except for guns!), being the victor. Political theorists also predicted HW Bush getting reelected and Obama losing in 2012. And Womack is not for all business, just one, his own. Fiscal Cliff??? It increased spending by $332 billion! He is pushing us off the cliff!!!

Tying Womack to liberalism needs more work

After the likes of JW Fulbright, Wilber Mills, Bill Clinton, Blanche Lincoln, ad nauseum, I'm having problems imagining a Democrat as a conservative. I'm not having one imagining the need to come with something, true or not, in order to win an election.

Womack

Listened to Womack on a telephone town meeting. he just agrees with everyone no matter their position. He is quick to side with Democrats in Washington in the name of "pragmatism" but won't stand with fellow Republicans on principles. The Democrats give nothing in negotiation so we gain nothing in the end but total submission. It is time for a stronger presence from Arkansas.