WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, has contributed to every Republican running for the Arkansas statehouse.
The $32,250 in contributions made by Womack’s congressional campaign committee may be a sign that his own political ambitions reach beyond the 3rd District seat he now holds.
"There’s been quite a lot of speculation from the start that he is more of an executive than a legislative type. This would seem to fuel it further," said Janine Parry, a professor of politics at the University of Arkansas.
Among Arkansas politicos, Womack is considered a potential candidate for statewide office – either for governor or U.S. Senate.
In either case, building some measure of goodwill with Republican leaders across the state would be helpful.
Womack’s campaign contributed at least $250 to each of the 74 Republicans running for the Arkansas House and at least $500 to each of the 26 Republicans running for Senate.
Beau Walker, speaking for the campaign, said that the motivation to contribute was simply to help Republicans take the majority.
"The congressman felt it was important to do for all of the Republicans. This is a good opportunity to move the state red," Walker said.
Arkansas Republicans are hoping to win enough House and Senate seats on Nov. 6 to take the majority in both chambers.
Republican candidates for the state legislature have raised more than $4 million for their election efforts while Democrats have raised more than $3 million, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
As far as Womack’s future, Walker said they are not looking beyond winning a second term in Congress.
Womack made the bulk of the contributions on July 23, about two weeks after Democrat Ken Aden dropped out of the 3rd District race.
At the time, there was no Republican running in the Senate 23 District. Womack this week contributed $500 to Ronald Caldwell, the Wynne Republican now in the race.
Walker said the intention from the beginning was to give to every candidate rather than cherry pick. Some candidates have received additional contributions from Womack.
Womack’s latest campaign finance report showed that he had raised $865,796 this election cycle and had $428,425 cash on hand as of Oct. 17.
Parry said that it is not unusual for U.S. House members running in "safe seats" to contribute to other candidates within their political party.
"It’s a way to win friends and influence people of course," she said.
Womack is not alone but certainly has spread his contributions farther than others.
Tom Cotton, a Republican from Dardanelle, has contributed $20,750 to 49 of the 100 Arkansas Republicans running for the legislature. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, has contributed $33,300 to 74 of them through his campaign and leadership PAC.
"I’m trying to help conservatives take control of the state House and Senate," Griffin said Friday.
Cotton, who is running in the 4th District, has raised $2,065,310 for his campaign – far surpassing the $81,173 raised by his Democratic opponent Gene Jeffress of Louann, according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.
Griffin had raised $1,298,309 through Oct. 17. He had $364,303 cash on hand at that point, according to his latest FEC report. Herb Rule, his Democratic opponent, had $22,573 cash on hand as of Oct. 17, according to his FEC report.
Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, has not contributed to individual Republican candidates in Arkansas although he has a substantial fundraising lead over his Democratic opponent.
Crawford had raised $920,941 through Oct. 17 and had $464,406 cash on hand at that time. Scott Ellington, his Democratic challenger, had raised $344,349 by Oct. 17 and had $46,489 cash on hand at that time, according to FEC filings.
The four Arkansas Republicans running for U.S. Congress are considered heavy favorites to win, according to most political analysts.