State Sen. Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, is not running for re-election in 2022, he announced Monday (Nov. 22) on his website.
Hendren said on his website, hendrenforarkansas.com, that his duties with the government reform organization he founded, Common Ground Arkansas, have left him with less time to focus on his Senate district.
Asked about his decision in a phone interview, Hendren said, “As I said in my statement, I’ve just got too much on my plate to do a good job of serving the people of the Senate district. Common Ground is taking more and more of my time, my business is at record levels, and we’re in the middle of a $3 million expansion, and my grandkids that I want to spend some time with. So all those things compiled together led me to a place where I just didn’t feel like I could do an adequate job of continuing to serve in the state Senate and do all those other things that I think are more important to me at this point.”
Hendren also ruled out running for governor in 2022. He did not rule out a return to electoral politics in the future, saying, “I’ve made it clear that I never say never with regard to long-term plans.”
Hendren formed Common Ground Arkansas earlier this year after announcing he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent. He made the switch in response to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Hendren said he was comfortable with the way his Senate district was redrawn by the Board of Apportionment following the 2020 U.S. Census. He said his district had not changed significantly.
He was confident that he would have been re-elected despite running as an independent.
“I’ve traveled this district for a long time, and believe me, I was not fearful of being re-elected as an independent because I know the people of this district,” he said.
Asked if the acrimony at the State Capitol contributed to his decision, he said, “I’ll say it this way: The acrimony or the divisiveness or the partisanship, all of those things that Common Ground is working to fix certainly made it a less enjoyable job than it was in my earlier years. That is a fact. And so that’s certainly something that weighs into my consideration about where am I going to spend the next 10 or 15 good years that I have left. I still believe in trying to fix that problem because I want my kids to be able to serve and other good people to be able to serve in the Legislature and it be something that is rewarding rather than frustrating. So certainly that had a role in it.”
He said he is committed to Common Ground Arkansas, which is requiring more time and effort than he had originally expected. He said the organization is trying to encourage leaders to run for office and that it will engage in several races, but who it supports will be a board of directors’ decision.
With his year remaining in the Senate, Hendren said he will focus on responsible tax relief, addressing the state’s 5,000 foster child situation, and working to “stop the Legislature from continuing to get outside of its lane and focus on divisive issues rather than things that make a real difference in people’s lives.”
He noted that he was one of 13 Republicans in the 100-member House of Representatives when he began serving in 1995, and leaves the Senate as its only independent.
In between, he rose to become Senate president pro tempore, the leader of the Senate, in 2019.