HOT SPRINGS — House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman announced his candidacy for the 4th District congressional seat Tuesday, the second Republican in as many days to kick off a run for the position freshman Congressman Tom Cotton is relinquishing in a bid for the U.S. Senate.

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr kicked off his 4th District congression campaign Monday evening in Witcherville. Janis Percefull, a Hot Springs teacher and author, has said she will seek the Democratic nomination for the 4th District seat.

Westerman told supporters here Tuesday he would be a commonsense conservative voice in the U.S. House.

"This will require someone who is unafraid to take on an executive branch that governs from the top down," he said.

The federal government currently picks winners and losers, Westerman said, citing as an example health insurance waivers for labor unions. He said he would promote free enterprise, reducing federal spending responsibly and increasing transparency in government.

"What they call progression, I consider agression," he said.

Westerman has supported a variety of legislation during his two terms in the state House, including the Arkansas online checkbook championed by Darr in his 2010 campaign for lieutenant governor, as well as Medicaid and income tax reform measures, abortion restrictions and a measure requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. One of his failed bills this year would have capped annual growth in state government spending.

Westerman was a leading opponent this year to Republican-led legislation to use Medicaid dollars to subsidize private health insurance for Arkansas’ working poor. He said Tuesday the so-called "private option" that was signed into law "fell short and did not reach conservative goals."

The House GOP leader said he enjoys living in Arkansas and has never desired to live or work in Washington.

"However, if serving in Congress is necessary to ensure that our children have a brighter future as well as a federal government that treats them fairly, then going to Washington is a sacrifice I am willing to make," he said.

Westerman, 45, of Hot Springs, is an engineer. He and his wife, Sharon, have four children.

Cotton announced last week that he will challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor in 2014. Pryor announced previously that he would seek a third term.


Lewis Delavan writes for the Hot Springs Village Voice.