State Rep. Ann Clemmer announced her candidacy for 2nd District Congress today, saying she would “stand up and fight for change.” She called the Affordable Care Act a disaster and TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which she described as an Obama program) a failure, and said the state of Arkansas had “given for too much of our power and money” to the federal government. As a teacher of American government for 30 years, she said, partly joking, that she might be able to teach Congress a thing or two.
Clemmer said she “felt a call” 35 years ago to bring the Republican Party to power in Arkansas. That accomplished, and with U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin deciding not to run for re-election, she said she decided “to answer another call” in seeking the 2nd District seat. She called Griffin a “common sense conservative” and said she was “grateful” for his service, but also said the country’s problems should “take a back seat to political gamesmanship.” Asked if she would have supported the government shutdown, as Griffin did, Clemmer said that had she been in the House, she would have advised her colleagues not to start a fight they couldn’t win. It’s not clear if she was contradicting herself on Griffin or criticizing him.
In response to a question after her announcement, Clemmer also suggested that the legislature was considering defunding the state’s private option for expanded access to health care. “My expectation is that there will be no immediate implementation of the private option,” she said, adding that Sen. David Sanders “says there are problems with the legislation.” However, more than 60,000 Arkansans have already signed up for the private option, so it’s not clear what Clemmer meant. Decisions on funding face the 2014 fiscal session of the legislature, of which Clemmer will be a part.
Clemmer, who is term-limited, had earlier decided to run next year against incumbent and fellow Republican Jeremy Hutchinson for his Senate seat. She said she changed her mind when Griffin announced he would not seek re-election and phone calls started to come in from folks urging her to run. When a reporter asked her if the calls came from Hutchinson’s supporters, she said, “I try not to take advice from my opponents.” Hutchinson was on hand to cheer her congressional announcement as were state Reps. Andy Mayberry and Andrea Lea. And Alex Reed, who heads up public affairs for Secretary of State Mark Martin, was on hand working the event. On leave, he said. Martin had once vowed his staff wouldn’t be involved in partisan politics.
Clemmer said her teaching career distinguished her from Little Rock banker French Hill and retired Army Col. Conrad Reynolds, who are also seeking the Republican nomination for the seat. Pat Hays, the former North Little Rock mayor, is the only announced Democratic candidate.