LITTLE ROCK — A Fayetteville pastor said Wednesday he will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, in the Republican primary for Arkansas’ 3rd District congressional seat.


In a statement on the website of the political action committee Brand New Congress, Robb Ryerse said he is a lifelong Republican but believes the Republican Party has lost its way.


“Today’s Republican leadership has strayed far from their roots: Empowering people to live their lives freely and on their own terms, controlling costs and spending wisely, being good stewards of our national resources, lifting up our neighbors when they are in need — and most importantly, having the integrity to be accountable for our actions. I don’t see these qualities in the Republican leadership of Congress today, and I want to change that,” he said.


Brand New Congress was formed by former staffers and supporters of Democrat Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.


Ryerse and his wife of 20 years, Vanessa, have been co-pastors of Vintage Fellowship in Fayetteville for the past 12 years. He said the church welcomes all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and religious skeptics.


“We are committed to lending a hand to anyone who needs it, including aiding the resettlement of refugees in our district, something our current congressmen tried to shut down,” he said.


Ryerse said that as a member of Congress he would work to create opportunities and support hard work by providing the tools needed to revitalize northwest Arkansas as a place where small businesses thrive. He said he supports “responsible, meaningful tax reform that provides relief for middle and lower income families by closing corporate loopholes and ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share.”


Ryerse grew up first in the suburbs of Cleveland and then in upstate New York, where he graduated from high school. He then attended a Bible college and a seminary and spent 10 years pastoring churches in New York City, the suburbs of Boston and Central Michigan.


Democrat Joshua Mahony of Fayetteville said last week he will run for the 3rd District seat.