Arkansas Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, will not seek re-election following his current term. Ingram has been a member of the Arkansas Legislature since 2009 when he was first elected to the State House.
He didn’t give a specific reason for not seeking another term. However, he did say that this last term was by far the most tumultuous of his tenure as partisan politics dominated the session.
“It has been a tremendous honor and a privilege to serve the people of my district, and if you were to exclude this year, I have enjoyed working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make Arkansas a better place to live, work and learn,” he said. “There isn’t a day I walk the Senate chambers that I don’t think back and appreciate all those who came before me and what it means to be a member of this body. I first walked onto the floor of the Arkansas Senate when I was eight years old, and I had a sense of awe for this institution and its elected leaders. I still carry that sense of awe for this institution to this day.”
After serving in the House from 2009 to 2012, Ingram was elected to the State Senate.
Since taking office, Ingram said his legislative priorities have included more robust ethics and campaign finance laws to protect the integrity of elections and policymaking. He has sponsored legislation to clean up the signature-gathering process used by organizations that want to place issues on the ballot.
Ingram also secured numerous grants for communities in his district. He led the successful effort to prevent the closure of the I-55 Bridge across the Mississippi River into Memphis, a move that would prove critical after the temporary closure of the I-40 Bridge in May 2021.
“The last few years, serving the citizens of District 24 has been a lifelong dream realized,” said Ingram said. “I was raised by parents who understood the need to serve and give back, and as a young man, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to see public service in action. I worked my first campaign when I was nine, and the first vote I ever cast was in an Arkansas state senate race – for my father.”
Ingram’s interest in politics and governance was spurred by his father’s Senate career. His father, W.K. “Bill” Ingram, served in the Senate from 1963 until 1981, when he was replaced by his brother, Kent Ingram, who served from 1981 through 1990. Before his service in the legislature, Ingram served his community as mayor of West Memphis from 1987 to 1995.
“I will never forget wandering the halls of the Capitol while my father was working,” he added. “I have seen, first-hand, what effective government can accomplish for our citizens and our communities, and I hope that my work here the last 13 years has had a positive impact on the lives of the men and women who sent me here.”
“My decision to leave the political arena at the end of this year was not one I made hastily,” Ingram said. “From my time as mayor of West Memphis to my early days in the legislature, I was determined to be a builder. And for over 12 years, I’ve tried to do just that. I come from a time when your decision-making was guided by what was best for your district and the state and not what was expedient for the party or one’s next campaign. All too often, the good of the people is held hostage by those who are reckless, selfish, and shortsighted.
“In recent years, and especially during the last session, I felt like I spent more time fighting than building. I spent more time trying to defeat foolish, divisive measures than working to pass substantive, meaningful legislation. And with Arkansas politics moving even more-so toward one-party rule in a D.C. win-at-all-cost style, I fear my ability to affect positive change at the state level would continue to diminish.”
Ingram is a businessman and was vice president of Razorback Concrete, an employer in 18 Arkansas cities. One thing Ingram said he will not miss is the increasing partisan divide in state government. The bombastic rhetoric needs to subside and substantive legislation needs to be passed to improve the lives of citizens in the Natural State, he said.
“As other term-limited legislators and those who have chosen to step aside, I hope that eager, forward-thinking leaders will take our place,” he said. “The Arkansas legislature does not need more partisan tribal leaders; there are far too many of those walking the halls now. The legislature needs leaders who aren’t there to draw lines but to solve problems, cooperate and seek answers from outside echo chambers. While so many politicians race for the partisan fringes, Arkansans desperately need fresh perspectives to help steer us back to the center before it’s too late.”
UPDATE: Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, confirms to Talk Business & Politics he will seek the State Senate seat, District 9, that Ingram is leaving. Murdock said he will announce formally on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022.