LITTLE ROCK — A first-term congressman is facing a challenge from an associate manager of an online Bible school in the GOP primary race for Arkansas’ second congressional district.

LITTLE ROCK — A first-term congressman is facing a challenge from an associate manager of an online Bible school in the GOP primary race for Arkansas’ second congressional district.


Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and Brock Olree of Searcy are vying for the Republican nomination for the seat that Hill was elected to in 2014. The winner of next month’s primary will compete against Democrat Dianne Curry and Libertarian Chris Hayes in the November general election.


Hill, 59, was the founder, chairman and CEO of Delta Trust & Banking Corp., which was headquartered in Little Rock and recently merged with Arkansas-based Simmons First National Corp. He served as deputy assistant secretary of the treasury for corporate finance in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.


Hill has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Martha, have two children.


Olree, 37, is associate manager of the online school Through the Scriptures.com, which offers Bible instruction and is operated by Truth for Today World Mission School, a Searcy-based nonprofit organization dedicated to world evangelism. He has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in education, both from Harding University, and a master’s degree in applied linguistics from Columbia University.


Olree previously taught English at Harding for two years. He has never run for public office before.


In recent interviews, both candidates said they support repealing the Affordable Care Act, securing America’s borders and ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood.


Hill said growing the economy and strengthening national security are the top issues of his campaign. He called the nuclear deal with Iran "a strategic mistake for the U.S." and said President Barack Obama missed opportunities to prevent the development of ISIS and the humanitarian crisis in Syria.


"I think it’s going to take diplomatic, military and … coordinated financial interdiction in order to not only stop ISIS but to block their funding and block their further expansion," he said.


Olree said he favors limited intervention in foreign affairs.


"I believe we’ve been too involved in conflicts in the Middle East and we’ve spent too much money and lost too many lives fighting other peoples’ wars," he said.


Olree said he is "concerned about foreign trade deals that have allowed millions of our jobs to go to other countries. I want to get those jobs back to the United States. I want to see median wages rise for American workers through a tightened labor market."


Olree criticized Hill for voting to give Obama and the next president trade promotion authority, which allows the president to negotiate international agreements which Congress can approve or deny but cannot amend or filibuster. He said the authority would "tie the hands of Congress" and help the president push through deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Olree opposes.


Hill said trade promotion authority "is not granting more power."


"It is the Congress overseeing the executive branch and how they negotiate trade proposals that have to be then approved by the Congress," he said. "This particular trade promotion authority is the most strict, has the most congressional oversight of the process, than any in recent history."


Olree said he would not have voted for last year’s omnibus spending bill, which he said "includes funding for President Obama’s Syrian refugee resettlement program, funding for Planned Parenthood, funding for an expanded H2V visa program, which would bring in more foreign workers to compete with American workers for jobs. And it’s fiscally irresponsible. It increases the deficit."


Hill said, "I supported that omnibus bill because much of the bill had already passed the House and had already been through the all of our committee process, and it fully funded our national security and contained other pro-growth economic measures. … I felt it was important to vote for it for national security and homeland security purposes, but I certainly didn’t agree with everything that was contained in it."


Hill’s campaign reported having more than $700,000 in cash on hand at the end of last year; Olree’s campaign had about $200. Olree said he was not concerned about the difference, saying, "In the end, dollars don’t vote. People do."


Olree also said that unlike Hill, he had not taken out-of-state money from political action committees.


"According to FEC filings for 2015, Mr. Hill’s campaign was funded mostly by PACs, with the largest of these contributors being a joint fundraising committee called Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise. This organization funneled money from bankers in Texas to Mr. Hill and others who sit on the House Financial Services Committee," he said.


"I believe that (Hill’s) focus has been on representing the banks and others who have funded his campaign. We’re both nice people, but I believe the job of a representative is to represent all the people, and that’s what I intend to do," Olree said.


Hill said he has hundreds of supporters and contributors in Arkansas.


"I’ve been in business for 35 years and I support policies that are pro-growth economic policies, like supporting opening markets for American products abroad and a more competitive regulatory landscape to create jobs (and) tax reform," he said. "It’s not surprising that entrepreneurs and business owners and chambers and community banking organizations are supportive of the work I do."


Hill added, "When I look at votes, I look at my conscience and I vote what I think is in the best judgment for the people of Arkansas and for our country."


Arkansas’ primary election will be March 1.