Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) announced Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the Fourth Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle). Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr announced Monday night he was seeking the nomination.
Westerman, a lifelong resident of Garland County, Westerman is Arkansas’s first Republican House Majority Leader in 138 years and an architect of the House Republican “SIMPLE Plan” which led to the 2013 Republican takeover of the Arkansas House of Representatives.
An engineer and forester for 21 years at Mid-South Engineering in Hot Springs, Westerman is a registered professional engineer in Arkansas and six other states, and a registered forester in Arkansas. He holds a Master of Forestry degree (2001) from Yale University. In 2013, he was named Engineer of the Year by the Arkansas Society of Professional of Engineers.
Westerman graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from the University of Arkansas in 1990. While at Arkansas, Westerman was a four-year walk-on member of the Razorback Football Team. He received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2005 and the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012.
Westerman is a former board member of the Fountain Lake School District and is a deacon at Walnut Valley Baptist Church. He lives in Hot Springs with his wife Sharon and their four children.
Text of Westerman’s announcement speech in Garland County:
Thank you, Sharon. Thank you to my family who are here today. Judge Davis, Senators, colleagues in the House, my good friends: Welcome.
We are called to be free. We are not to use that freedom to allow ourselves to succumb to our old natures or selfish impulses. Rather, we are to use our freedom to serve others. It is our duty as blessed, free men and women to use the gifts we have received to faithfully administer the grace we’ve been given.
I count among my gifts: The freedom I enjoy as a citizen of this great nation, the fortune of being a lifelong resident of Garland County where the common-sense, Bible based, rural values my parents taught me still ring true today, the gift of the blessings of my wife Sharon and my four children, Eli, Amie, Ethan, and Asa.
Without them, without my parents, my extended family, and you, I do not have the strength, conviction or purpose for what I am about to say next:
With a large degree of humility and sincerity. With wholehearted devotion and a willing mind. And being mindful of the great things God has done for me, I announce today my candidacy to seek the Republican nomination for your Fourth District seat in the United States House of Representatives and be your voice—your servant—as your next Congressman.
Our country is at a critical juncture, as is our state.
In this election, we’re going to decide what it’s like to live in this country and in our state. Whether people will have more power to shape their own lives, or whether we’re going to lose that power to an unfair, top-down Obama administration where the IRS runs rampant looking in to your lives, where overly burdensome regulations stifle our ability to grow good-paying jobs for our workers, and where a government that refuses to live within its means threatens the futures of my children and yours.
Now anyone can say those words, it’s the details that are hard. We must get “we the people” involved in this fight for our future and our voices must be heard.
Today our lives are being more and more determined by a federal government that picks winners and losers. For example, we have a government that gives their labor union allies and other friends thousands of waivers and delays of Obamacare, but doesn’t even think to help hardworking individual taxpayers. It’s a government led by a president who threatens to veto any bill offered by Republicans to delay the Individual Mandate.
There are questions that are at the crux of the 2014 campaign: Can we make government treat us fairly? Can we move forward to a time where we have equality of opportunity instead of being forced to live by rules that demand equality of outcome? Can we get back to a true free-market system where the rules and outcomes are not defined by a top-down government in Washington?
I have no doubt that we can.
For our state, the questions are more specific: Do we move forward on the path of common-sense conservative values you have selected for our state? Or, do we go backwards to the days of one-party, top-down government, answerable to an elite few?
I have no doubt we can move forward.
Do we continue to move forward in our fight against the unfair government in Washington? Or, do we go backwards to the days when Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi ran roughshod over Congress?
I have no doubt we can move forward.
Do we continue to move forward in our fight to create an environment where we grow good-paying jobs for Arkansas workers? Or, do we continue to fall behind by punishing small business owners who wish to expand?
I have no doubt we can move forward.
I also have no doubt we can move forward when we continue to elect Representatives that go to Washington and have the courage to do what they said they will do back home.
When I go to Washington, I will take with me the courage to stand-up to a top-down administration the same way we did when House Republicans passed two pro-life bills and a voter ID bill this year in Little Rock—the ones Mike Beebe vetoed, the vetoes House Republicans and I joined together and voted to override.
The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was one of the key bills of the SIMPLE Plan agenda we told Arkansans we would enact if we won the majority. We kept our promise to you, passing 52 bills into law that lowered taxes, increased educational choices and opportunities, secured the ballot box and the power of your vote, protected our Second Amendment rights, protected the unborn children of our state, and increased legislative oversight so we could ensure the government treats you fairly.
I was honored to help engineer the SIMPLE Plan and put forth real solutions to real problems, but it was a greater honor to be selected by my Republican colleagues to lead our Caucus through an historic 2012 election, become the first Republican Majority Leader in 138 years, and lead the fight to keep our promise to you and pass those 52 SIMPLE laws.
As you know, I stood in opposition to the Private Option plan. It was supported by many of my Republican friends. Because of my desire to solve problems and work through issues, I helped write some of the plan. As I said on the House floor when I spoke against it: It was “a piece of work that is in the best traditions of the House.”
The Private Option was a noble attempt at working hard to solve a problem but the bill fell short and it did not accomplish the conservative reforms we needed—reforms that I proposed in a separate bill that I had pushed for while working for a solution. As a legislator, my covenant was not with the state agencies or the lobbying firms looking to spend the “free money from Washington.” No, my covenant is with the hardworking Arkansas taxpayers who know that every dollar government takes out their pocket is not free.
I knew that when I went to the floor to speak against the Private Option, I was painting a target on myself. I couldn’t wait around to be asked my opinion—this was too big of a deal. I needed to honor the covenant that I have with the people of my district. I needed to be the voice of my constituents that day—without the luxury of 20/20 vision that comes with hindsight and with the courage to do the right thing when the pressure is high.
I voted no.
This last legislative session, I also tried to pass a bill to responsibly cap the spending of state government. My bill earned the ire of the Beebe administration. It earned the full negative force of his administration that eventually succeeded in killing it.
During the last session, the Governor also went out his way to call me names like “redshirt,” and “some guy.” But, while Governor Beebe was calling me names, he also said this about my spending cap bill: “Washington might need something like that.”
So, Governor Beebe, I’m going to give you that one. I’m going to take your advice and I’m going to take that bill with me to Congress because if we are ever going to get our debt under control, it is commonsense that we must first get our spending under control!
Liberals in Washington and here in Arkansas talk about “progressive” reforms when they discuss their agenda. But the only “progression” I see is away from our individual rights and liberties, and a “progression” towards a top-down, centralized government that picks winners and losers, that thinks it knows what’s best for us, that wants to monitor us, and that thinks it can tell us what to do.
What they consider “progression,” I call aggression, and my mission as your next congressman is to fight the liberal aggression coming from DC so that my children, and all of our children, will have the liberty to have a brighter future than we do, and the freedom to pursue their dreams and carry on our shared legacy as Americans and Arkansans.
I have had friends and supporters ask me why I want to go to Washington. They remind me that we can do more for the people of Arkansas at the state government level than from the federal government level.
In theory, I agree that we can make more positive impacts for the people of Arkansas at the state government level than from Washington. But in reality, my experience in the Arkansas House of Representatives has shown me that state government often has its hands tied by federal regulations and top-down control. Federal agencies under President Obama regularly impose rules from Washington that allow state agencies in Little Rock like DHS and ADEQ to sidestep the General Assembly—elected by you—and make up the rules as they go.
This top-down control of the federal government has made governing at the state level less effective, and that is unfair to us as a State and unfair to you as the hardworking taxpayers who pay the bills. As your next congressman, I will make it my duty to go fight for our rights as a state. I will fight to untie the binds placed on us by the federal government and give my friends in Little Rock the opportunity to govern more effectively for you.
I am a lifelong resident of Garland County. I have a good job, a roof over our heads, trees we can hang a hammock on, land to farm and hunt, and a pond we’ll soon be fishing out of.
It has never been my life ambition to live and work in Washington, DC. My family is here. But if my serving in Congress is necessary to ensure my children, and all of our children, have a brighter future and a federal government that treats us fairly, then that is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.
My name is Bruce Westerman. I am asking for your vote, for your support, and your prayers as I fight for you as your next United States Congressman.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the Great State of Arkansas, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.