The three men running for the Arkansas House of Representatives District 77 seat in the Nov. 6 general election squared off in a forum Monday.
The candidates, state Rep. Justin Boyd, the Republican incumbent, Stephen Edwards, a Libertarian, and Luke Pruitt, a Democrat, participated in a town hall at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith that was hosted by the UAFS chapter of the American Democracy Project. They were each asked questions concerning a variety of topics, including the candidates' vision, role and efficiency, economic development, higher education and current events.
Candidates were asked what they would do as a state representative to help keep District 77 in particular, and the region in general, at the forefront of economic growth. Pruitt said he thought the state Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson need to be convinced that Fort Smith is going to have the best return on investment for allocating resources.
"That's the No. 1 thing that we need to do, and I will certainly be working hard to make sure that that happens," Pruitt said.
During his response, Boyd said it boils down to the District 77 seat being a state position.
"So yes, there is a district you represent, but we have to get statewide policies: tax reform, workforce development, including K-12 education, and making sure that we're competing with the other states, and quite frankly, at this point in time, the rest of the world," Boyd said. "So we have to fund workforce development, we have to get the tax policy right and we have to continue to work on infrastructure, and that includes water."
Edwards said while he agreed with Boyd on tax reform, one side that does not get mentioned enough is government spending.
"We need to control our spending," Edwards said. "Medicaid expansion was a mistake to latch onto. Now, our congressmen and our Legislature, they're ... trying to find new ways to provide that funding with an Internet sales tax and tire tax and everything else, and so we need to cut our spending. I agree with the tax reform though."