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Democrat launches bid for US House seat in central Ark.

LITTLE ROCK -- An educator and activist announced Monday she's running for a U.S. House seat in central Arkansas, becoming the second Democrat to launch a bid to unseat the district's incumbent Republican congressman.

Gwendolynn Combs filed paperwork last week with the Federal Election Commission to run for the 2nd Congressional District. Combs is a gifted and talented specialist at Stephens Elementary in Little Rock and was also the organizer of a women's march at the state Capitol in January that coincided with others nationwide. Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill is seeking a third term next year after first being elected to the seat in 2014.

Combs criticized Hill and the state's other Republican House members for backing legislation that would have repealed and replaced major portions of the federal health overhaul. The repeal efforts collapsed in the U.S. Senate last week. Combs said she would have voted for the health care law when it was enacted in 2010.

"We need to consider that health care is a human right, and it's not something that should hinge on a person's economic status," Combs said. "Those people who work hard shouldn't be bearing the burden of tax breaks for the wealthy."

A spokesman for Hill's campaign did not immediately respond to a message Monday afternoon. Hill has more than $816,000 on hand for his re-election bid, according to his latest campaign fundraising report.

Combs said she supports abortion rights and opposes efforts backed by Hill and other Republicans to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood. She also said she supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and would probably support linking the wage to inflation. She said she opposed President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and criticized his plan to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Combs, 42, has never run for office before and is among several political newcomers who are running as Democrats try to rebound from recent losses in the state. Another Little Rock teacher and activist, Paul Spencer, announced earlier in July he was seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District seat. Republicans hold all Arkansas' four U.S. House and two Senate seats, as well as all of the constitutional offices and a majority of both chambers of the state Legislature.

State Desk on 08/01/2017

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