French Hill Says He'll Run for 2nd District Congressional Seat

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 4:46 pm  

J. French Hill

LITTLE ROCK - A Little Rock bank executive and a retired Army colonel on Tuesday said they're running for the 2nd Congressional District next year, the first Republicans to launch a bid for the central Arkansas seat since U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin announced he wouldn't seek re-election.

French Hill, the founder and chief executive of Delta Trust & Banking Corp., said in a statement released by his campaign that he was filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to set up his congressional campaign. Less than an hour later, retired Army Col. Conrad Reynolds said he also is seeking the GOP nomination.

The announcements set up a Republican primary that could get more crowded in the coming days. State Rep. Ann Clemmer, who has been considering a run, is scheduled to announce her plans at a news conference Wednesday. Several other GOP figures also are considering a run. Griffin, a Republican first elected in 2010, announced last week he wouldn't seek a third term.

Hill, 56, had been running for a state House seat in Little Rock, and reported raising more than $109,000 for that campaign earlier this month. He served as a senior economic policy adviser to President George H.W. Bush and is a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

"I know firsthand the challenges businesses and families in Arkansas face, and in Congress, I will fight every day for policies that spur economic growth and job creation," Hill said.

In announcing his candidacy, Hill vowed to "do away with" the federal health care law and the 2010 Dodd-Frank law revamping the nation's financial system.

"I think they are terrific overreaches in federal policy and creating a lot of uncertainty in the business climate," Hill later told The Associated Press in an interview.

Hill said he planned to return contributions made to his state House bid, and would ask his supporters to give to his congressional campaign.

Reynolds, 53, won 5 percent of the vote in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Since that race, he said, he has been working on creating the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame and works as a security consultant.

Reynolds, who had been exploring a run for lieutenant governor, said he believed he was best prepared to focus on issues such as spending and debt. Reynolds cited the 16-day government shutdown that ended earlier this month.

"When the government shut down, I think that is evidence to everyone that Washington is broken," Reynolds told the AP.

Neither Hill nor Reynolds would say whether they would have voted for the legislation that re-opened the federal government after it was shut down for 16 days and raised the nation's borrowing limit.

Although he wouldn't say whether he would have backed the effort to tie federal spending bills to defunding the health care law - which led to the budget standoff - Reynolds called it a flawed move in hindsight.

"It was obviously a bad strategy, but the intent to get the message across that we've got to reign in our spending is a good message," he said.

Arkansas Democrats have been citing the shutdown as they try to rebound from recent Republican gains in the state. Former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays cited it as his primary motivation for running when he announced last week he would seek the Democratic nomination for Griffin's seat.

More: Arkansas Business talked to French Hill in January about the economy, his career and his biggest business mistake.

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