US Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas fends off challenge from state lawmaker in GOP primary

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Womack has won the Republican nomination for his seat in northwest Arkansas, fending off a longshot challenge on the right from a state legislator.

Womack, the only one of the state’s four House members who faced a primary challenge on Tuesday, defeated state Sen. Clint Penzo in the 3rd Congressional District. The seven-term congressman will face Democrat Caitlin Draper in the November election.

Womack had the backing of the state’s top Republicans, including Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and was endorsed by conservative groups such as National Right to Life.

He also had an overwhelming financial advantage over Penzo, reporting nearly $2 million on hand for his reelection bid. Penzo reported about $65,000 in the bank.

Penzo tried to portray Womack as not conservative enough for the district. He criticized Womack for opposing Rep. Jim Jordan’s unsuccessful bid to replace ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Womack instead voted for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who withdrew his bid after facing opposition from GOP hardliners. Womack ultimately voted for Mike Johnson, who was elected speaker.

Womack at the time called his support for Scalise a matter of principle. Scalise has campaigned in northwest Arkansas for Womack’s reelection bid.

Womack has dismissed Penzo’s criticism, noting his support for Johnson. He’s said he decided to run for reelection to his seat to focus on several issues, including border security and the deficit.

Womack was first elected to the 3rd District seat in 2010, and is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. He chairs the panel’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee.

Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press