Westerman's seat in Congress draws 2 new candidates

Published 1 November 2017

Hot Springs Democrat Hayden Shamel and Scranton Libertarian Tom Canada say they're running for the 4th District congressional seat held by Hot Springs Republican Bruce Westerman.

Shamel, 36, is an English and Spanish instructor at Lakeside High School and heads the Democratic Party of Garland County, according to her campaign website. She is a former instructor at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope and teacher at Arkansas High School and Fouke High School.

"The people of Arkansas are facing real problems, and we need legislators who are focused on finding real solutions," Shamel said Monday in a written statement when asked why she is running for Congress.

"We deserve representatives who will reach across party lines to implement bold economic policies that will directly help our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors. We deserve someone who will get things done. We deserve a better Arkansas," she said.

She hasn't previously run for elected office, she said, but "I am an Arkansan wanting to fight for Arkansans in Washington, DC."

Shamel announced her bid for the Democratic nomination on Twitter late Friday, a day after her campaign filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission. She will formally announce her campaign on Saturday from 3-5 p.m. at the Farmers Market Pavilion in Hot Springs, said campaign manager Guneev Sharma.

Canada intends to seek the Libertarian nomination in the same district, said Michael Pakko, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Arkansas.

Canada said Monday in a written statement that he is a 26-year-old assistant supervisor at Stark Manufacturing in Paris and that he's never run for elected office.

"But I felt compelled to run because when I look at the things that our federal government is doing, I see how they will negatively impact my three children and their generation. We have a government that over-spends, over-taxes, and over-regulates. If we don't start reining these things in now, then I believe there will be serious consequences to future generations," Canada said in an email.

Westerman, 49, has held the 4th District seat since 2015. He serves on three U.S. House committees -- Budget, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Natural Resources, according to his office's website. He served in the state House of Representatives from 2011-15 and on the Fountain Lake School Board from 2006-10.

In May, Westerman voted for U.S. House-approved legislation to repeal and replace the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. At that time, he said, "This bill is not final, but the beginning of a process to repeal Obamacare and put in place conservative legislation that gives Americans freedom in health care."

Republicans in the U.S. Senate later fell short of the 51 required votes to approve their version of the legislation.

Shamel said in her written statement that her priorities in Congress will be to improve the education system, fight for better wages and jobs and ensure everybody has access to affordable health care.

"Our primary focus must be to make health care more affordable for Arkansas families," she said. "We must ensure that the hardworking residents of this state can afford to pay their co-pays and premiums. We cannot allow big pharmaceutical companies to charge outrageous prices for common prescription medication, and we must make sure that those who live in rural areas can still receive quality health care by protecting our rural hospitals.

"I will fight to ensure that all Arkansas families have the fundamental right to affordable health care, because our health and well being depends on it," Shamel said.

Her campaign website describes her as a proud gun owner who "will always fight to preserve our second amendment rights."

"I will also advocate for Arkansas to take common-sense steps to reduce accidents and crime while protecting our right to bear arms."

She called for better education on gun safety and storage to protect children, as well as universal background checks "to prevent criminals and terrorists from gaining access to deadly weapons."

"These rational measures will ensure that we both protect Arkansas' rich history of gun and sporting culture while also reducing the likelihood of accidents and crime," her website says.

Canada said in his email that "I favor a clean repeal [of the Affordable Care Act], much like what [U.S. Sen.] Rand Paul proposed in the Senate." Paul is a Republican from Kentucky.

"I favor a free market approach to health care, and I think history bears out that ever since government has been involved in health care via regulation and insurance mandates, the costs have skyrocketed," he said.

Jon Gilmore, senior campaign adviser to Westerman, said that "Congressman Westerman is working every day to represent the views and values of the hardworking Arkansans of the 4th District and his common-sense approach to issues is resonating across our state.

"Congressman Westerman's work in a small business prepared him to represent the conservative values of his constituents. He is pleased to welcome anyone who wants to get involved in the political process and discuss the issues important to Arkansans," Gilmore said.

According to Westerman's latest campaign finance report, his campaign had $621,970.35 cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

For the 2018 election, the filing period for state and federal offices will be Feb. 22-March 1. The primary will be May 22, and the general election will be Nov. 6, 2018.

In the 2016 election, Westerman defeated Libertarian candidate Kerry Hicks of Malvern with 182,885 votes to 61,274, according to the secretary of state's office.

Metro on 10/31/2017