State lawmaker challenges Arkansas GOP Rep. Steve Womack in primary.

Little Rock— Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack is fighting for reelection against a state lawmaker who is trying to paint him as unelectable for the northwest Arkansas district months after denying retirement rumors

Womack, 67, faces state Sen. Clint Penzo in Tuesday's GOP primary for the 3rd Congressional District with significant advantages. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, National Right to Life, and other conservative groups back Womack.

The seven-term congressman has raised nearly $2 million for his reelection, surpassing Penzo. Penzo, who declared his candidacy in November, has a fraction. In November, the primary winner meets Democrat Caitlin Draper.

Last summer, Womack told The Washington Post he hadn't decided whether to run for reelection and lamented Congress' dysfunction, fueling suspicion that he wouldn't. Womack announced his reelection bid after the interview. Womack said the rumors were unfounded and that he usually decides on reelection after Labor Day.

“I still had the burning desire and felt like I had something to offer in the quest to solve some of the more profound challenges of our time,” Womack told The Associated Press last month. It covers the waterfront: deficit and debt, border security, global geopolitics, and the rise of adversaries who threaten US sovereignty.

Given his seniority and position in Washington, Womack said he can handle those issues. The 2010 election made Womack a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government subcommittee. Womack easily won reelection in the Republican district in 2022 with almost 63% of the vote. Republicans control all four state U.S. House seats. Only Womack faces a primary challenge on Tuesday.

Penzo, who declined interviews, questioned the lawmaker's conservative credentials in the race. Announcing his campaign, the state senator said Womack had “lost touch” with his constituency. “Unlike Steve Womack, I told voters I would be a conservative fighter they could trust and have stood firm. In his campaign announcement, Penzo remarked, "I haven't changed."

Since 2023, Penzo, 48, has served in the Arkansas Senate after two stints in the House. He slammed Womack for rejecting Rep. Jim Jordan's failed House Speaker replacement bid. Womack backed House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who withdrew when GOP hardliners opposed him. Mike Johnson was elected speaker after Womack voted.

Womack said he supported Scalise on principle and disregarded Penzo's Jordan vote criticism. "We ended up with Mike Johnson as speaker, a dedicated conservative from top to bottom who is trying to deal with a very fractured conference that led to Kevin McCarthy's dismissal," he said.

Womack wants to cooperate with Johnson on his issues but is realistic about his party's slim House majority. He stated, “I don’t think shutting the government down and threatening taking us back into the minority is the right course of action. “So I work every day to pursue the agendas I think this country will need, recognizing that we may not get everything we want.”

stay turned for development