LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Sunday urged voters to support a state legislator who national Democrats believe has a chance at flipping a Republican-held congressional seat in central Arkansas.

The civil rights icon from Georgia praised fellow Democrat Clarke Tucker as he headlined an event with the state representative, who's trying to unseat incumbent Republican French Hill in central Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District.

"We need his voice, we need his leadership, we need the energy and commitment and dedication of this young man," Lewis told a packed room at Philander Smith College, a historically black school near downtown Little Rock. "He'll make Arkansas proud. He'll make the 2nd Congressional District proud. I look forward to working with him on the floor of the House."

Republicans have held the 2nd District seat, which represents Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties, since 2011. Hill was first elected to the seat in 2014. Arkansas is solidly Republican, with the GOP holding all four U.S. House districts and both its seats in the U.S. Senate. Democrats have said they believe Hill is vulnerable because of his opposition to the federal health overhaul, which has expanded coverage to thousands in the state.

Neither Lewis nor Tucker mentioned Hill during their rally on Sunday. Tucker, a cancer survivor, cited the House's vote last year to repeal the health care law and the image of House Republicans celebrating in the Rose Garden following that vote as a motivation for running.

"You see something like that and you understand that we're at a crossroads for the soul of our country," Tucker said. "When you realize that, you understand that for the sake of your children, you have to run. ... You have to run to do whatever small part you can do to continue the work and the legacy of people like John Lewis."

Before the rally, Hill praised Lewis as a "great American and a good man" and cited their work together in Congress on expanding the Central High Historic Site's boundary in Little Rock.

"Despite our bipartisan work together, it is no surprise that he supports my opponent in the upcoming election," Hill said in a statement released by his campaign. "Congressman Lewis and he both share very similar ideas for how to run the government, including increasing taxes and increasing the size and scope of the federal government."

Tucker dismissed Hill's claim that he's an advocate for higher taxes and bigger government.

"There's nothing in my record to suggest that. My record suggests I'll be an advocate for people to have access to health care and education and good paying jobs," Tucker said after the event.

Lewis also was scheduled to headline a fundraiser for Tucker later in the day Sunday, but figures were not immediately available on how much the campaign expected to raise from that event.

___

Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo