House of Representatives

Banking executive Hill wins Ark. House GOP primary in one of many heated races

Banking executive French Hill clinched an outright victory over two rivals in a Republican U.S. House primary Tuesday, while a former leader of the Arkansas House was locked in a tight GOP race with an energy investor in another congressional district.

The two races highlight a primary where Republicans faced heated contests for dozens of statewide and legislative seats. Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, who represents east Arkansas' 1st Congressional District, did not have a primary opponent and will face Democrat Jackie McPherson this fall.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican who represents northwest Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District, also didn't have a primary opponent and does not have a Democratic challenger in the general election.



Hill, the founder and chief executive officer of Delta Trust and Banking Corp., won the Republican nomination outright for central Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District, defeating state Rep. Ann Clemmer and retired Army Col. Conrad Reynolds.

He advances to a fall matchup with former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, who ran unopposed Tuesday for the Democratic nomination. Hill said he planned to continue focusing on cutting the federal government's power as he shifts into general election mode

"I think the race is still about the role of the federal government, that the federal government needs to be more accountable in how it spends money and what it spends money on," Hill told The Associated Press. "The federal government needs to make sure its regulatory regime is not inhibiting growth and economic growth in our country."

The seat is currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, who announced last year he wouldn't seek a third term and was running for lieutenant governor. He won the GOP nomination for that post Tuesday.

Hill, 57, outpaced his two rivals in fundraising and blanketed the district with television ads touting his business experience. But he has faced criticism from his two rivals who have questioned his conservative credentials over a donation he made to former Treasurer Martha Shoffner's re-election bid in 2010. Shoffner, a Democrat, resigned last year.

Hill, in turn, criticized Clemmer for supporting the budget bill for the private option -- the state's compromise plan to expand Medicaid under the federal health law -- last year and has criticized Reynolds over his campaign's finances.



The race for the 4th Congressional District, which stretches across southern and western Arkansas, turned into a bitter fight between two candidates who sparred over whose credentials were better for fighting the health law they both deride as "ObamaCare."

The winner of Tuesday's primary will face former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt, who did not have an opponent in the Democratic primary.

Moll, 31, is an energy investor who lives in Hot Springs who had previously worked for Jeffries Bank in New York and the Peterson Institute in Washington. Westerman, 46, is an engineer and forester who has served in the state House since 2011. He served as House majority leader in 2013 after Republicans took control of the Legislature in the 2012 election.

Moll has tried to link Westerman to the state's "private option" compromise on Medicaid expansion, citing his sponsorship of the legislation and his introduction of an alternative proposal that would have included an overhaul to the state's existing Medicaid program. Westerman later pulled his name from the private option legislation and voted against it. He never ran his alternative proposal before a legislative committee.