A hotly contested State House race in northwest Arkansas has a Republican runoff on June 21.
Businesswoman Denise Bugos of Cave Springs and Scott Richardson, an information systems manager, of Bentonville led a group of four Republicans vying for the District 13 House seat in the May 24 primary. The winner of their runoff will face Jen Standerfer of Rogers, a Democrat, in the November 8 general election.
State law requires a runoff between the two leading candidates in a primary if no candidate obtains a clear majority — 50% plus one or more — in the primary. This is to ensure that no candidate stands in the general election with only a plurality of primary votes.
Bugos led the pack with 763 votes or 37%, final but unofficial results. Richardson showed 692 votes for 34%. Bentonville City Council member Aubrey Patterson won 430 votes for 21% while Bentonville attorney Greg Payne won 173 votes for 8%.
Bugos entered the second round with a campaign cash advantage, according to campaign finance records. She received the endorsement of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, as confirmed by Huckabee’s Political Action Committee.
Richardson garnered the endorsement of the other two candidates who were in the district primary, according to a statement from his campaign. It is also Richardson’s third campaign and second run-off for the House, having also run in 2018 and 2020.
Both candidates said in interviews they were the best choice for voters because they could be an effective legislator right away.
Bugos cited his business experience, including his ability to negotiate business deals and work with budgets.
Richardson cited his active role in local Republican politics, including his good relationship with members of the Northwest Arkansas delegation. He also noted his knowledge of information systems, an area he said was vital to the continued prosperity of northwest Arkansas.
“Look at the technology growth in our region,” Richardson said in a phone interview Wednesday. Sustaining that growth will require lawmakers who understand the technology and won’t make mistakes of inexperience that will hinder that growth, he said. Legislators with a deep understanding of technical issues ranging from expanding broadband computer connectivity to providing charging stations and other infrastructure for electric cars are needed, he said. He is the best candidate in the race to deal with these issues, he said.
“It’s going to be critical,” added Richardson.
Richardson came within 12 of 1,880 votes to win his race against then-incumbent Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, in the 2018 Republican primary. It was Richardson’s first race. He tried again in 2020 after Douglas announced he would not run again. Richardson led the main field among three candidates, but lost to Rep. Delia Haak, R-Gentry, in a runoff. Haak is undisputed in a neighboring district, House District 17, after legislative district boundaries were redrawn last year.
“I support Scott Richardson for state representative,” Patterson said in the statement provided by Richardson. “Scott is a strong conservative who will represent us well in Little Rock.” Payne posted his post-election decision on his campaign’s Facebook page, saying he “will vote for Scott in the June 21 runoff, and I encourage those who supported me in the primaries to do the same.” .
Bugos said voters in District 13 want a strong advocate for their conservative Christian values who knows the difference between standing up for principle and simply trying to shout at the opposition.
Knocking on doors during the campaign “is probably the most assertive and difficult thing I’ve done in my life,” Bugos said. “They want kindness back in this world,” she said of voters. “They want respect back in this world. It’s a Christian region that wants its values to win without putting others down.”
“I know how to win and how to be a fighter, and I’ve demonstrated that,” Bugos said.
She worked as a buyer for Walmart Stores Inc. before starting a brokerage firm and then a luxury vacation rental business. “You have to fight if you’re a businesswoman. A woman has to earn the respect” of her peers, she said. You have to do this without upsetting the people you need the business connections to, she said.
“Anyone can have an idea,” Bugos said. “You have to be able to execute it.”
Moving an idea forward requires cooperation and building consensus, especially in the Legislative Assembly, she said. The district needs a representative with the business background to understand what helps and doesn’t help an area’s economy in the long run, she said.
Bugos outscored Richardson by $68,190 to $11,357 in the primary campaign, according to the latest available campaign finance reports. Bugos’ funding includes $70,000 in loans she made to her campaign, records show. She had $17,760 in cash on hand at the start of the final week of the primary, compared to $2,220 for Richardson, according to reports. Richardson loaned his campaign $2,344, records show.
The state created District 13 last year after the 2020 U.S. Census. The state redraws legislative districts after each census so that each member represents an equal number of people. There are 100 House districts and 35 Senate districts statewide. Population growth in Benton County and decline elsewhere in Arkansas led to the creation of District 13.
Bentonville’s southeast 14th Street is along most of District 13’s northern border. The district’s southernmost border touches Rainbow Road, also in Bentonville. District 13 extends to Southwest Regional Airport Road in the west and North 24th Street in Rogers in the east.
House members serve two-year terms and receive a base salary of $44,357.