Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TOP STORY >> Wills runs for District 2 seat

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader Editor

House Speaker Robbie Wills (D-Conway) is one of five Democrats seeking their partyís nomination to succeed Cong. Vic Snyder (D-Little Rock), who is retiring this year.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican primary, either Tim Griffin or Scott Wallace. Griffin answered a series of questions from The Leader on March 3.

Wills, a Conway native, was born May 27, 1968. He attended schools in Conway and graduated from Conway High School and the University of Central Arkansas. He earned a law degree from the UALR Bowen School of Law and is in private practice in Conway. He served two terms on the Faulkner County Quorum Court from 2001-2004, where he was chairman of the Faulkner County Jail Task Force.

Wills is an attorney and small businessman who says he has chosen law and law-making as his ďprofession and his dedication.Ē He says his public service is based ďon common sense, fairness, purpose and working with others.Ē

Faulkner County voters elected him in 2004 to the House of Representatives. In 2007, at age 39, Wills was the unanimous choice of his colleagues to serve as House Speaker, making him one of the youngest speakers in the country. He says he has worked hard to live up to the trust given him by his family, those who elected him and those with whom he works.

Representing District 46, covering west Conway and the western portion of rural Faulkner County, Wills is the former chairman of the House Public Transportation Committee and is a member of the House Agriculture and Economic Development Committee, the House Revenue and Tax Committee, and the Joint Budget Committee.

He and his wife Dana have two young daughters, ages 8 and 8 months. For recreation, Wills enjoys running, reading history, playing music and rooting for the Razorbacks. The Wills family attends Grace United Methodist Church in Conway.

Why are you running for Congress?

Iím running for Congress because we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work bringing jobs and economic opportunity to Arkansas. That will be my No. 1 priority in Congress.

Families are hurting in Arkansas. People are concerned about their jobs, sky-high taxes, and they are sick and tired of fiscal irresponsibility in Washington.

I will do everything in my power to promote a strong economy, cut taxes, eliminate government waste and focus on economic development right here at home in Arkansas.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

The support for my campaign continues to grow every day from all areas of the district from Danville to Bald Knob and from Clinton to Benton. The most important endorsement anyone can get is from the people. And that endorsement comes on Election Day.

Iím working day and night to get out and talk to folks all over this district, and what I hear them talking about is getting this economy working for everyone. Thatís what I intend to work on as a congressman.

Will serving in the legislature prepare you for Congress?

Absolutely. My leadership experience in bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get things done will be a great asset in Congress. My record on bringing jobs to Arkansas, providing better health care, cutting taxes and balancing the budget is clear.

Washington has lost its way, but Iíll do something to help get our economy and country back on track. Washington could use a little more Arkansas values.

What makes you different from your Democratic opponents and your potential GOP opponent?

No one in this race has done more about bringing jobs to Arkansas, cutting taxes and improving health care than me. I respect all the candidates running this year. A big difference between Tim Griffin and me is while he was in Washington as part of the problem, Iíve been in Arkansas as part of the solution.

I have a record of leadership and results here in Arkansas. Iíve balanced the budget, cut taxes, created jobs and worked with members of both parties.

While Iíve been doing those things here in Arkansas, Tim was a Washington insider practicing politics as usual. We donít need to bring more Washington to Arkansas; we need to bring more Arkansas to Washington.

How will you help Arkansas if youíre elected to Congress?

My first priority will be to bring jobs to Arkansas and get our economy back on track. Iíll do what Iíve always done: stand up and fight for the people of Arkansas. After all, if your congressman wonít fight for Arkansas, who will?

Why did you get into politics?

I got into public service, not politics. I wanted to help make our community a better a place to live and raise a family. I still just want to make a difference for Arkansans and improve the quality of life for everyone.

Has the political scene changed much in the past few months? Will that help you?

The political scene has changed now that filing is over. Everyone knows their opponents and can make their plans. My plans havenít changed.

Iím traveling all over the district and listening to the voters, just as Iíve done as speaker. I know they are concerned about our economy and the way things are done in Washington. Iíll get the job done for Arkansas jobs and a stronger economy.

Will the Second District switch from one of the most liberal to a more conservative congressman?

Folks in the district want a congressman who is one of them, who understands them and will fight for them. They want someone who can bring a common-sense, Arkansas approach to solving our problems, not someone on the extreme on either side of the political spectrum.

Vic Snyderís been a great advocate for this district over the years ó particularly for Little Rock Air Force Base ó and I would hope to continue serving our area as well as he has.

When Iím traveling the district I donít hear people asking about ideology. They are asking me, ďRobbie, how are you going to make sure that I can pay the mortgage, or the pharmacy bill next month? How am I going to afford to send my kids to school?Ē

I have a proven record in the state legislature of working with Gov. Beebe to create those jobs that will let people live and work here in Arkansas.

What can we do about health care? What kind of legislation would you support in Congress?

First off, no one in this race has done more to improve the quality and accessibility of health care in Arkansas than I have. In 2009 under my leadership, the legislature passed a major health-care improvement package that created a statewide trauma system that will save hundreds of lives a year, keep community health centers open, and add thousands of children to the ARKids First health insurance program. We found a way to pay for it and we did this in about three weeks.

I support making health-care more affordable, making health insurance portable and protecting those who are vulnerable. I support such provisions that keep insurance companies from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, health status and gender. I also support closing the donut hole in the Medicare prescription drug benefit and extending dependant coverage.

When it comes to health-care costs and taxes, what can we do to lessen the burden on individuals and small businesses?

First of all, we have to lower taxes for the middle class so they can afford to provide food for their family. Iím proud of the fact that we passed the largest tax cut in Arkansas history and I helped Gov. Beebe cut the grocery tax. We must also cut taxes for small businesses so they can hire new employees and put more Arkansans back to work.

My No. 1 priority is bringing jobs and opportunity to more Arkansans. Small businesses need to be given incentives for hiring new employees and providing health care, not given obstacles.

How do we restart the economy?

My No. 1 priority will be jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Bringing jobs and opportunity to the hard working people of Arkansas will be the thing that gets me up early and keeps me up late.

In the Arkansas House, I served on the committee dedicated to economic development. I worked with Gov. Beebe to expand the $10 million expansion of Arkansas Works, the stateís successful program to coordinate education, job training and economic development.

I also understand that our small businesses are the lifeblood of our state. I am a small businessman. Here in Arkansas we have more small businesses per capita than most any other state and we need to give our small-business community all the support we can. I helped lead the fight to make it easier for the Arkansas government to attract new businesses and jobs to the state. Supporting job growth and supporting small businesses will be my No. 1 focus in Washington.

What does your family think about your running for office?

Weíre all in this together. My wife Dana, my daughters, my parents and sister are excited about this chance to fight for Arkansas. Weíre not political insiders, weíre just simple folks trying to make a difference.

Rep. Snyder has secured millions of dollars worth of projects for Little Rock Air Force Base. Will you support the base if youíre elected?

Of course. Congressman Snyder has done a great job supporting Little Rock Air Force Base. I look forward to fighting for the mission of the base, the jobs that are created and the families that depend on the air base.

The men and women serving on base are critical to our security and our local economy. Iíll fight for them to have the resources they need to continue their mission in the future.