Rep. John Boozman (R)
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.
Rep. John Boozman (R)
Elected: Nov. 2001, 4th full term.
Born: Dec. 10, 1950, Shreveport, LA .
Education: U. of AR, 1969-72, Southern Col. of Optometry, O.D. 1977.
Family: Married (Cathy); 2 children.
Elected office: Rogers School Bd., 1994-2001.
Professional Career: Optometrist, 1977-2001
The congressman from the 3rd District is John Boozman (BOZ-man), a Republican who won a special election in November 2001. He replaced Asa Hutchinson, who had resigned to head the Drug Enforcement Administration. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, where he was an offensive guard for the football team, Boozman became an optometrist in Rogers, part of rapidly growing Benton County. He served two terms on the local school board. To win the House seat, Boozman prevailed in three close contests in two months, even though he was outspent in each. In the primary, Boozman had the endorsement of GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee. His initial chief opponent, former state Rep. Jim Hendren, was damaged by revelations that he had had an extramarital affair. Boozman faced a runoff against state Sen. Gunner DeLay, a Republican who raised few funds but had name recognition as a cousin of then Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. With a stronger grass-roots organization, Boozman won 57%-43%. His opponent in the general election was state Rep. Mike Hathorn, a 28-year-old lawyer who local Democrats hoped could prevail with his Clinton-like personality. But the national party did little to help his campaign, and Boozman won 56%-42%.
|John Boozman (R)||215,196||(79%)||($325,926)|
|Abel Tomlinson (Green)||58,850||(21%)||($7,131)|
|John Boozman (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%), 2004 (59%), 2002 (99%), 2001 (56%)
His voting record has been reliably conservative. But he sometimes showed his independence from the Bush White House, as in his votes to remove the embargo on trade with Cuba and to import U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada. He also opposed Bush’s immigration proposal as amnesty for illegal aliens. Boozman sponsored bills to abolish the tax code and to display the Ten Commandments in the House and Senate chambers, and he voted against renewal of the Voting Rights Act, saying the South had made racial progress. An evangelical Christian, Boozman advocates weakening restrictions on churches’ political activities. In 2007, he was a sponsor of legislation making English the country’s official language. He said, “This bill will allow new citizens to create a foundation based on English, which will allow them to better realize the promise of the American dream.”
He is the ranking Republican on the Veterans Affairs’ Economic Opportunity Subcommittee. With Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, he sponsored the Veteran Vision Equity Act to improve benefits for veterans with impaired vision. In 2008, the House passed a veterans bill with a couple of minor provisions sponsored by Boozman. One would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to air television and radio commercials to advertise benefits available to veterans, and the other directs the department to conduct a 20-year study on the vocational rehabilitation and education programs it administers.
On the Transportation Committee, Boozman caused a stir in 2005 when he sponsored, but then withdrew, a bill that would have had the effect of making the maximum workday for truckers 16 hours, up from the current limit of 14 hours. Wal-Mart, with a huge trucking component to its business, favored the change, but critics called it the “sweatshop on wheels” amendment and said it would jeopardize safety. On local issues, Boozman is working to have U.S. 71 designated an interstate and to connect Interstate 540 from Fort Smith to Bentonville with interstates running north to Kansas City and south to Texarkana and New Orleans.
In the 2004 campaign, he was opposed by surprisingly well-funded Democratic state Rep. Janice Judy, the owner of a Fayetteville pizza restaurant. Boozman criticized her opposition to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arkansas. He won 59%-38%. He faced modest opposition in the tougher climate of 2006 and won 62%-38%. After the election, in which Democrats swept every statewide office, Boozman was left as the highest ranking Republican in Arkansas and the only one in the congressional delegation. In 2008, he had no Democratic opposition.