State Rep. Monte Hodges, a Democrat from Blytheville and five-term state legislator, has announced his candidacy for the First District U.S. Congress seat. He kicked off his campaign for the Democratic nomination on January 5 with stops in Blytheville, West Memphis, and Jonesboro.

The First Congressional District includes Chicot, Desha, Lincoln, Arkansas, Baxter, Boone, Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Fulton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Lee, Lonoke, Marion, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, Randolph, Saint Francis, Searcy, Sharp, Stone, and Woodruff counties. It also includes a portion of Pulaski County.

The incumbent, U.S Rep. Rick Crawford, a Republican from Jonesboro, has held the seat since 2011.

“I’m running for Congress because I see a future for the Delta where our children don’t have to leave home to find opportunities; where the jobs we do have pay good wages; where our towns are not shrinking – but blossoming,” Hodges said at a prayer breakfast campaign send-off at his hometown of Blytheville.

Hodges’s campaign, according to a campaign news release, is “focused on empowering voters and protecting voting rights, investing in the Delta and rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, representing farmers caught in costly trade wars, and transforming a flawed criminal justice system.”

Hodges helped usher in a $1 billion economic development project that turned his home county into one of the top steel producers in the nation; expanded healthcare to more than 200,000 working Arkansans; and helped move Arkansas toward criminal justice reform, according to the news release.

“I see a future, where the steel we produce in Mississippi County is used to build the next bridge over the Mississippi River in West Memphis – and prevent debacles like the emergency shutdown of the I-40 bridge last year,” Hodges said at a press conference in West Memphis.

Hodges is on an eight-day campaign tour to every county in the district. The tour began with a prayer breakfast in his hometown of Blytheville, a press conference at the site of the previously shut down I-40 Bridge in West Memphis, and a kick off event in downtown Jonesboro. Hodges will travel through the heart of the Delta, meeting with folks in historic places like Elaine, and then into the unrivaled beauty of the Ozarks with a final event in Harrison.

“This part of the country is iconic,” Hodges told supporters in Jonesboro. “The Delta – our people, our food, our music and our culture – has shaped the world. Our nation’s history has deep roots in this part of our country, the Delta, and there is rich potential here. But Arkansas has the lowest voter turnout and voter registration rates in the nation. This is the campaign that’s going to turn that around and get people to the polls. We’ve seen it in Georgia, and we’re going to see it here in Arkansas. That’s what I want voters to know about me. I’m keeping my focus on representing ALL of the people, on fighting for the First District.”

Hodges was born and raised in Arkansas’ Delta in Mississippi County. He is a 1990 graduate of Blytheville High School. He received his AA degree from what was formerly Mississippi County Community College (MCCC) now Arkansas Northeastern College (ANC) and his B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics and Finance from Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro.

Hodges is senior vice president of Commercial Lending at Southern Bancorp Bank in Blytheville. He and his wife, Rhonda (Morris) Hodges have one child. They attend Wellsprings Church, Blytheville and he is an ordained minister.

For more information about Hodges, go to his campaign website.