Denise Bugos (R)
Residence: Cave Springs, 11 years in this neighborhood
Occupation: CEO of Peace and Quiet Luxury Rentals, LLC
Education: Masters in Business Administration and Bachelors in Retail Marketing, both from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Political experience: Nothing
Aubrey Patterson (R)
Residence: Bentonville, 20 years in this neighborhood
Occupation: Vocational and technical teacher at Lycée de Bentonville
Education: Masters in Education and Bachelors in Political Science, both from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway
Political experience: Bentonville City Council since 2019
Greg Payne (R)
Residence: Bentonville since 2016
Occupation: Private Lawyer, Story Law Firm of Fayetteville
Education: Law degree, University of Missouri, Kansas City, where he also earned a bachelor’s degree in management
Political experience: Nothing
Scott Richardson (R)
Residence: Bentonville, 10 years in this neighborhood
Occupation: Chief Technology Officer for CEI Engineering Associates
Education: Masters in Information Systems and Bachelors in Computer Science and Information Systems, both from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville
Political experience: Failed bids for State House in 2018 and 2020
The most contested State House race in northwest Arkansas this year is in the new District 13 of central Benton County, according to election records.
The four leading Republican candidates for District 13 are businesswoman Denise Bugos, Bentonville City Councilman Aubrey Patterson, attorney Greg Payne and information system manager Scott Richardson.
The Republican nominee for District 13 will face Jen Standerfer, a Democrat, in the Nov. 8 general election.
The state created District 13 last year after the 2020 U.S. Census. The state redraws legislative district lines after each census so that each member represents a roughly equal number of people. There are 100 House districts and 35 Senate districts. The federal government conducts a census every 10 years. Population growth in Benton County and decline elsewhere in Arkansas led to the creation of District 13.
State law requires a runoff if no candidate gets a clear majority — 50 percent plus 1 or more — in the primary. This is to ensure that no candidate stands in the general election with only a plurality of primary votes. The second round, if necessary, will take place on June 21 between the two candidates of the primary of May 24 who will collect the most votes.
Bentonville’s southeast 14th Street is along most of District 13’s northern border. The district’s southernmost border touches Rainbow Road, also in Bentonville. District 13 extends to Southwest Regional Airport Road in the west and North 24th Street in Rogers in the east.
House members serve two-year terms and receive a base salary of $44,357.
“What sets me apart is my extensive business experience,” said Bugos, who worked as a buyer for Walmart Stores Inc. before starting a brokerage and then a luxury vacation rental business.
“In business, you need to have a strategy to achieve your goals,” Bugos said, noting that the same goes for legislation. “When you have the business skills, it becomes second nature for you to read a situation and see what the goals are for the other people involved.”
Those skills will help strike deals with other lawmakers to achieve goals in her district and in northwest Arkansas, she said.
“You have to be able to convince people,” she said.
The goal is to do something that serves the interests of as many Arkansians as possible, not to beat other lawmakers in a contest, she said.
District 13 residents live in a developed area with many new subdivisions, Bugos said. The rapid growth that led to the creation of the neighborhood happened because the area offers a great lifestyle with lots of opportunities, she said. Protecting these aspects of the area is the main thing residents want, she said. Residents want good jobs for themselves and a good education for their children, and those two factors go hand in hand, she said.
“They want someone in government who doesn’t get in the way but helps the region develop,” Bugos said.
This requires knowledge of the kind of infrastructure needed, including knowledge of information technology, she said. Helping a region grow without serious mistakes also requires business experience to understand what helps and doesn’t help a region’s economy in the long run. Their rep needs to know both what the goal is and how to get there, she said.
ENHANCE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Aubrey Patterson is the only candidate among the five in this race with experience in elected office, she said. She sits on the Bentonville City Council.
“I have experience listening to residents, representing them and making their voices heard,” she said. “That’s the most important thing, and I think I did a good job.”
Education is a major concern for residents of the district and also accounts for a “very large portion of the state budget,” Patterson said. “I had four kids. I had kids in public school, public charter school, and homeschooled.”
She is also a teacher at Bentonville High School. She can represent parents in all kinds of educational situations, she said. Good public schools are essential, and public school is the right choice for most but not all students, she said.
The crucial issues lawmakers need to watch out for when governing are unintended consequences, Patterson said. A piece of legislation may look and sound good and even read well, but could have unintended and unintended negative effects, she said. This is where experience in government is vital to catching such problems, she said.
The same goes for having a deep knowledge of local conditions, the kind of knowledge a city council member is immersed in, she said. Attention to detail can improve any legislative proposal and prevent problems before they arise, she said.
“The people of District 13 want this to continue to be a great place to live,” Patterson said. “It’s safe, growing and thriving. They want it to stay that way. It’s a great place to live and raise a family.”
The government’s role should be limited to public safety and infrastructure, without interfering with business operations, she said.
ENEMY MANDATE MASK
Greg Payne is the attorney for the parents who sued the Bentonville School District for imposing a mask mandate in response to covid-19. He has also represented parents in similar cases in other districts. Bentonville’s lawsuit was successful in lower court but was overturned Thursday on appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The experience convinced him that parents and other voters need an attorney familiar with the law and the constitutional responsibilities of the branches of government as a representative of the state, Payne said.
“What I saw were people looking for a plea who had no choice but to sue,” Payne said. “They need someone who will listen to them and stand up for them without having to go to court to get this. They want someone in public service who will listen to them and tell them what their options are, someone who knows their rights.”
As a lawmaker and lawyer, Payne said, he could be a “one-stop shop” for solving voters’ problems. He could tell voters their options under existing law and help correct and close any gaps they bring to his attention in those laws through legislation, Payne said.
He is said to be a strong advocate for parents’ rights in schools and has proven it in his work for parents, Payne said. Government bodies have vastly outgrown their powers during the covid crisis despite unified Republican control of the state’s Constitutional Office and both houses of the Legislative Assembly, he said.
Payne is no new to politics despite this being his first run, he said. He has previously dealt with lawmakers and been active in Benton County politics.
“Who is better placed to respect the law and make the necessary changes?” he said. “I’m the only lawyer in the running.”
CLOSE PREVIOUS RACE
Scott Richardson almost became a state representative. He came within 12 of 1,880 votes to win his race against then-incumbent Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, in the 2018 Republican primary.
It was Richardson’s first race. He tried again in 2020 after Douglas announced he would not run again. Richardson led the main field among three candidates, but lost to Rep. Delia Haak, R-Gentry, in a runoff. Haak is now the undisputed holder of a redesigned neighboring district, House District 17.
“Growth in this district is coming up against long-standing family farms, and I understand the issues that creates,” said Richardson, who owns and operates a small cattle operation. “I think I’m uniquely qualified to represent the district because of that. We can grow and develop while letting people maintain their way of life whenever they want.”
Sustaining growth in the region will require a deep understanding of technical issues ranging from expanding broadband computer connectivity to providing charging stations and other infrastructure for electric cars, Richardson said. He is the most qualified candidate in the race to deal with these issues, he said.
“I have the technical background,” he said. “We need that perspective in the Legislative Assembly.”
At the same time, traditional farming faces challenges such as monitoring property values and the resulting taxes are rising rapidly in this prosperous region, Richardson said. These farms need protection, he said.
“Not killing our way of life here is what got us to this point,” he said. “People want to live here.”