FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — Voters got to hear from several candidates running to represent people in Washington County at a forum held Monday evening.
The League of Women Voters of Washington County hosted the forum. It invited 11 candidates for races in the county to come and share their platform.
On the local level, LWV invited Republican Justice of the Peace Patrick Deakins and Democrat Josh Moody, who are both running to be the next Washington County judge.
From the state senate races, LWV invited Democrat Lisa Parks and Republican State Representative Clint Penzo, who are both running for District 31. From District 35, it invited Republican Tyler Dees and Libertarian Doug Peterson.
For the state house districts, all three candidates running for District 9 were invited. They are Republican Deanna Hodges, Democrat Diana Gonzales Worthen and Libertarian Steven Stilling. For house district 19, LWV invited Democrat Paula Irwin and Republican Steve Unger.
None of the Republican candidates were able to make Monday’s forum, but people got to learn about the Democrat and Libertarian candidates who attended.
KNWA/FOX24 did a “Meet the Candidate” story, learning more about the platforms of the two candidates running for Washington County Judge. Click here to read that story.
The forum’s moderator, Kyle Kellams from KUAF Radio, asked each candidate about their legislative priorities if elected.
“We have so many issues affecting our kids and grandkids and families,” said Lisa Parks.
“Criminal justice reform is a big concern in Arkansas,” said Doug Peterson. “We’re in the top five or six states in the U.S. for incarceration rates.”
“Access to education, healthcare, mental health care resources and quality jobs,” said Diana Gonzales Worthen.
“The biggest thing I want to accomplish is getting rid of old, tired, worn out laws,” said Steven Stilling.
“Teacher pay raises,” said Paula Irwin. “The $4,000 raise is a great start that’s being proposed but we need to do more.”
With a $1.6 billion surplus in Arkansas, the candidates were asked their thoughts on cutting state income taxes. The Libertarian candidates want to see that tax go away.
“I don’t want to just cut all the income tax, I want to cut all the government stuff that costs money,” said Stilling. “Let’s get rid of government excess.”
“I like the idea of zero income tax because it’s one of the less effective and less just taxes,” said Peterson.
While the Democrat candidates think that money could be put to good use.
“There are a multitude of services that we need to provide to our residents in Arkansas, so I would not be in favor of cutting the income tax,” said Irwin.
“If it means that we’re going to be causing additional challenges and barriers for our population because we don’t have those taxes, then we have to figure out a different way,” said Gonzales Worthen.
“I think the priority so far has been cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations,” said Parks. “We really need to look at ways that we can do that for working families and people who really need tax cuts.”
All of the candidates said they support fair voting laws and access to the polls.
“There’s this movement and this desire to make sure that people who speak other languages have access to the ballot,” said Parks.
“It’s fundamental,” said Peterson. “The right to vote is why we’re here. It’s the foundation of our entire system.”
“Registering to vote is a daunting process,” said Gonzales Worthen. “I think there are ways we can make that process easier.”
“Since a lot of polling places are at schools, why don’t we just talk to the school bus drivers and have them continue their normal route all day that way voters can just jump on a school bus and get carried to the school to vote,” said Stilling on the transportation barriers to voting.
“They are still looking for poll watchers,” said Irwin. “It’s kind of sad to think we need those but in order to ensure safe elections, that is something we may continue to need.”
All said they are ready to represent all the people of their districts if elected.
Click here to find what state senate and state house districts you live in, since this is the first election with the newly redrawn maps using 2020 Census data.
Below you’ll find links to the campaign websites or social media pages to all 11 candidates who were invited to Monday’s forum.
Washington County Judge Republican Candidate, Justice of the Peace Patrick Deakins.
Washington County Judge Democrat Candidate, Josh Moody.
State Senate District 31 Republican Candidate, State Representative Clint Penzo.
State Senate District 31 Democrat Candidate, Lisa Parks.
State Senate District 35 Republican, Tyler Dees.
State Senate District 35 Libertarian, Doug Peterson.
State House District Republican, Deanna Hodges.
State House District Democrat, Diana Gonzales Worthen.
State House District Libertarian, Steven Stilling.
State House District 19 Republican, Steve Unger.
State House District 19 Democrat, Paula Irwin.