Arkansas Democrats received an early Christmas present.
Jared Henderson, the 39-year old former executive director for Teach for America’s Arkansas region, announced on Tuesday (Dec. 12) he will seek the Democratic nomination for Arkansas governor. No other Democrat has announced for the post to challenge incumbent Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
In an interview with Talk Business & Politics, Henderson, who is married to a Little Rock physician, said his 13-month old son’s future was a motivator for this run.
“I think that by the time my son is an adult, I think Arkansas can have one of the most dynamic economies in the country and I think that we can have an education system that is truly exemplary when compared to anywhere else in the nation, but I think to do that, we have to recognize that we’re living in one of the most rapid and dynamic periods of change in human history and I do not think that’s an exaggeration,” he said. “If we’re going to seize this moment and not just manage the challenges, but actually seize the opportunity, we need some bold but doable solutions in education, in economic development, and a few other areas.”
In a separate interview, Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the announcement from Henderson.
“I welcome the candidate to the race, and I suspect there might be more,” Hutchinson told reporters, not mentioning Henderson’s name. “This is still somewhat early in terms of the filing that begins in February, so there very well could be more.
“I think it is important to take that a step at a time because it is the political season. I am not going to take anything for granted and I am going to work very hard and look forward the opponent and what (his) ideas are,” said Hutchinson.
Two months ago, Republican Jan Morgan, a Hot Springs gun range owner, public speaker, and Fox News contributor, announced that she had formed an exploratory committee to consider a GOP challenge to the popular governor.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas, by law, must field a candidate who will earn at least three percent of the total vote in 2018 in order to maintain its party status. Henderson expects to be competitive next year and is one of several new, younger political candidates who has stepped up to run for office across Arkansas this year. Many of those candidates have ties to Teach for America or have educational backgrounds.
Henderson spent six years with Teach for America, a national non-profit, and was responsible for more than 1,500 teachers and 150 employees, according to his biography. He began his career as a research scientist and manager at NASA and worked at consulting firm, McKinsey & Company. He holds bachelor’s degrees in computer science and physics from the University of Arkansas. He later earned master’s degrees in business administration and public administration from Harvard University.
POSITIONS ON KEY ISSUES
In the wide-ranging TB&P interview, Henderson outlined his thoughts on education, jobs and the economy, healthcare, abortion, gun rights and the death penalty.
Education – Henderson said the teaching profession must be restored. “I think that if we’re going to build a great education system, we need to make Arkansas, in a decade, one of the best places in the country to be a teacher. If we do that, we will have a great system. If we don’t, everything else will just be tinkering on the margins.”
Jobs – Henderson wants to stimulate wage growth and entrepreneurship. “I’m glad to see our unemployment rate so low, but wages are also incredibly low, and growth is minimal at best. And that is one thing that we need to focus on strongly.”
“There are people in Dumas right now, in Blytheville, in Helena, you name it, that have the work ethic, the initiative, and the passion to figure out what to do with a vacant store front on Main Street. What they don’t have are the technical know-how, often times the relationships and the capital. We can do something about that.”
Healthcare – “I think that the direction we’re taking on Arkansas Works, I largely agree with and I am happy to give credit where credit’s due on that front. I think that the most important thing in healthcare right now that’s not being talked about is the cost of insurance premiums.”
Henderson said he planned to hold a more formal campaign kick-off rally after the first of the year and would use the next few weeks to connect with key constituencies around the state.
Watch more of Henderson’s interview below to view more comments on abortion, the Second Amendment, and the death penalty.