LITTLE ROCK — House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, announced Tuesday he will seek the Republican nomination for the 4th District congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle.
"It has never been my life ambition to live and work in Washington, D.C.," Westerman said in a speech in Hot Springs. "My family is here. But if my serving in Congress is necessary to ensure my children, and all of our children, have a brighter future and a federal government that treats us fairly, then that is a sacrifice that I am willing to make."
Westerman, 45, had been expected to announce for the 4th District seat if Cotton chose to run for the Senate. Cotton announced his Senate bid on Aug. 6.
Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr announced he would seek the 4th District seat on Monday. Janis Percefull, a Hot Springs teacher and author, has said she will seek the Democratic nomination for the office.
Westerman said Tuesday the state and the nation are at "a critical juncture."
"We must decide whether people will have more power to shape their own lives, or whether we’re going to lose that power to an unfair, top-down Obama administration where the IRS runs rampant looking into our lives, where overly burdensome regulations stifle our ability to grow good-paying jobs for our workers, and where a government that refuses to live within its means threatens our future," he said.
The state’s first Republican House majority leader in 138 years, Westerman said that "when I go to Washington, I will take with me the courage to stand-up to a top-down administration the same way we did when House Republicans passed two pro-life bills and a voter ID bill this year in Little Rock—the ones Mike Beebe vetoed, the vetoes House Republicans and I joined together and voted to override."
He was referring to a new state law banning most abortions at 12 weeks and another banning most abortions at 20 weeks, as well as one requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the 12-week abortion ban and has said it plans to challenge the voter ID law.
Westerman said he was honored to engineer the House’s 2013 agenda, much of which became law.
"We kept our promise to you, passing 52 bills into law that lowered taxes, increased educational choices and opportunities, secured the ballot box and the power of your vote, protected our Second Amendment rights, protected the unborn children of our state and increased legislative oversight so we could ensure the government treats you fairly," he said.
Westerman also spoke of two fights he lost in the Legislature: His attempts to pass a bill to impose a cap on year-to-year spending in state government and his opposition to the so-called "private option," the plan — backed by a number of GOP legislators — to use federal Medicaid dollars to buy private health insurance for the state’s working poor.
He vowed to take his fight to control spending to Washington and said that in opposing the private option he was honoring a "covenant … with the hardworking Arkansas taxpayers who know that every dollar government takes out their pocket is not free."
Westerman is employed as an engineer with Mid-South Engineering of Hot Springs. He is in his second term in the House.
He and his wife, Sharon, have three sons and one daughter.