Arkansas 3rd District
In the mid-2000s, the northwest corner of Arkansas became one of America’s boom areas, with major corporate headquarters and dozens of small factories, tourist attractions and retirement developments in the Ozarks. The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metropolitan region grew by nearly 7% in 2005, outpacing the rest of the state. The region also had a rapidly growing population of Hispanics, who make up more than 20% of the population of Springdale and Rogers. Driving the local economy are three major employer anchors: Wal-Mart Stores, J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Tysons Foods. This is also home to the handsome University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where young lawyers Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham married in the living room of a brick bungalow, and the mountain-bound resort town of Eureka Springs.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
For most of the 20th century, the rounded green mountains and pleasant wide valleys, farmhouses and small towns of northwest Arkansas seemed left behind. But the friendly atmosphere and strong religious faith of these communities have proved to be assets, not liabilities, conducive to economic creativity and personal serenity. There have also been touches of genius. Sam Walton, who opened his first Wal-Mart on the town square of Bentonville (it’s now a small museum), had the inspiration to build a retail chain in tradition-minded small towns and rural areas using sophisticated computerized management. It made him the richest man in America, though he still drove a pickup truck and kept the corporate headquarters in a deliberately unglitzy building in Bentonville. Don Tyson built Tyson Foods, with headquarters outside Springdale, into the world’s leading chicken producer and processor. In 2007, Tyson Foods announced it would invest $150 million to build the first plant to refine animal and vegetable fats into fuel. Other firms have flocked in, especially to do business with Wal-Mart, now the world’s largest food retailer.
The 3rd Congressional District covers northwest Arkansas, including Bentonville, Fayetteville and Springdale, plus Fort Smith on the Oklahoma line. It extends as far east as Marion County, home to Ranger Boats, the renowned manufacturer of tournament-quality fishing boats. Its population rose 30% in the 1990s and another 14% from 2000 to 2007—more than Arkansas’s other three districts. Politically, this area has been the most Republican part of Arkansas since the Civil War. John Paul Hammerschmidt was elected to the U.S. House in 1966 as one of the first Republican congressmen from the South. He was strong enough even in Democratic 1974 to beat Bill Clinton, then 28, in Clinton’s first election, though Clinton did get an impressive 48% of the vote. Lately, this area has become even more Republican, as Christian conservatives have entered politics and new migrants and millionaires have voted heavily Republican. After voting narrowly for Clinton in 1992 and narrowly against him in 1996, the 3rd twice voted strongly for George W. Bush and gave John McCain 64% in 2008.