Candidate Takes Heat For Tax Votes, Airs Response Ad

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In the final days leading up to Tuesday’s election, Rep. Tim Summers, R-Bentonville, has come under fire from the national anti-tax group Americans For Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity has been running television ads in Northwest Arkansas taking Summers to task for previous tax votes. The group also has sent out campaign mail with a similar message.

Summers is running in the Republican primary in newly created state Senate District 1 encompassing Bentonville and surrounding areas. The district includes a small portion of northern Washington County. Summers’ opponent is Cave Springs construction executive Bart Hester, a political newcomer.

In response, the Summers campaign is airing a television ad blasting Americans for Prosperity, calling it an out-of-state special interest group funding Hester’s campaign.

The state director Americans for Prosperity, Teresa Oelke of Rogers, is the daughter of the founder of Crossland Construction. Crossland or people associated with the company have heavily backed Hester in the race.

Summers is receiving considerable financial support in the race from Walmart or people associated with the retail giant. Summers and Hester have raised more than $105,000 each in campaign contributions.The winner will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, but no Democrat filed to run in the district, meaning the election essentially will be decided Tuesday. 

Hester has signed a pledge not to raise taxes, but Summers, who stresses he also has voted to reduce taxes, said he won’t sign a no-tax pledge. A no-tax pledge can limit an elected official’s options if a need arises for more revenue, Summers has said.

On a related note, the race in Senate District 1 is one of two high-profile state Senate races in Northwest Arkansas pitting two of the state’s leading campaign consultants against each other.

Clint Reed of Little Rock-based Impact Management Group is handling Summers’ campaign, while Hester’s campaign is being handled by Keith Emis of Little Rock-based Diamond State Consulting.

The two consultants also are squaring off in the state Senate District 7 race. Reed is the consultant for Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, while Emis is handling consulting duties for Rep. Jon Woods, R-Springdale. The winning candidate in Tuesday’s Republican primary in District 7 faces Democrat Diana Gonzales Worthen of Springdale in the November general election. District 7 encompasses Johnson, Springdale and parts of eastern Washington County.