State Sen. Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, who left the Republican Party of Arkansas and formed the bipartisan, centrist group Common Ground Arkansas, said last week’s election results were a referendum supporting moderate politics.
“I think what we saw nationally validates the Common Ground message, which is [that] people want leaders who will work together, leaders who will solve problems and leaders who don’t just represent the far right or the far left,” he said. “I think that’s the message that I saw in Virginia. That’s the message that I think is going across the country is: we’re tired of the heated, extreme, rhetoric running the show.”
In particular, Hendren said Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s victory in blue-trending Virginia illustrates a desire for pragmatic leadership, not extreme partisanship.
“Because I still believe that the elections in large part in this country are determined by that sliver in the middle, and the fact is what we saw in Virginia, that sliver in the middle, particularly suburban white women who had been so offended by many of the tactics of the Trump-style of campaigning, changed their vote,” Hendren said. “Youngkin did not endorse that and did not practice that. So I think there is a message there… I don’t think you can call this a huge mandate either way. It was still an election within four, five points. But the fact is that there is no question that the Democrats are paying a price for gridlock and not getting things done in Washington and also for the good job that the Republican party is doing of casting them as far-left, extremist, critical race theory, all of those things played into it.”
Hendren lives in fast-growing Northwest Arkansas, which saw a number of newly-proposed legislative districts in the Board of Apportionment’s General Assembly maps under consideration. Combined with term limits impacting some members, the faces of the NWA delegation will be different. Due to population increases, the State Senate seat Hendren represents will be smaller, and the new Independent says he expects to run for re-election.
“Right now, my plans are to continue to serve in the legislature,” Hendren said. “Certainly, I’ll have some new voters in the south part of my district. But again, Northwest Arkansas has seen a lot of change, and as you have said, we’re going to have some new seats and some new faces up there because of term limits and new districts. We’ve got districts where there is no incumbent. So it’s an exciting time, it’s an opportunity for us to make some change. I hope for the better.”
Finally, Hendren addressed the possibility of a special session on tax reform. He agreed that lawmakers are close to a deal with the governor on what a package should look like, but he is hesitant for a session call that could go beyond the scope of tax issues.
“I think if we can’t get agreement, it would be better for us to wait until the fiscal session, because the last thing we need is the legislature coming down and spending two or three weeks getting into all kinds of other issues. That’s not the purpose of special sessions, that’s why there’s a call issued by the Governor. And if the Governor can get agreement, then he should issue a call, we should come down and do our business and go home. I do think that’s within reach,” Hendren said. “I know that in order to have a successful special session, you have to get agreement in advance. Otherwise, again, it can go off the rails. Like we kind of saw the sine die fiasco.”
You can watch Hendren’s full interview in the video below.