CONWAY, Ark. – The candidates looking to represent the 1st District of Arkansas in the United States House squared off on a debate stage Thursday to discuss the economy, agriculture and cultural quandaries facing the country and state.

Republican Rep. Rick Crawford faced Democratic State Rep. Monte Hodges in the debate hosted by Arkansas PBS on the University of Central Arkansas campus in Conway.

Crawford, the incumbent in the race, put his previous agricultural experience on display, particularly when asked about rice trade with China and poultry trade with Cuba.

“I’ve served this district now for six terms,” the Republican said. “I know this district very well. I have a very broad agriculture background. Agriculture’s the number one driver of our economy in this district.”

Hodges, who has past banking experience, held his own in discussions about economic development in the district, which encompasses eastern Arkansas.

“My colleagues entrusted me to carry the largest economic incentive package the state has ever offered, Amendment 82, which drew Big River Steel, a $1 billion steel mill to my district,” Hodges said.

Both candidate were asked about what they would focus on first if elected. Hodges said he wants to codify abortion rights for women, while Crawford said the Farm Bill would be key for him and other Republicans, particularly if the party retakes the House.

The debate series continues Friday, with the debate between candidates running for governor starting at 10 a.m. The U.S. Senate candidate debate starts at 1 p.m.

For more information on the debate series, go to