DPA Chair Tennille to run again for the party’s top post
Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) Chair Grant Tennille has reversed course and announced Thursday (Jan. 12) in an e-mail to party members he will run again for the chair post during the Party’s Jan. 28 state meeting.
Tennille, first elected to the chair in October 2021, had announced Sept. 10 he would not run again for party chair. In the note Thursday to party members, Tennille said he decided to run again after conversations with his wife, Rebecca, and former Sens. Joyce Elliot of Little Rock and Keith Ingram of West Memphis.
“Over the course of a few hours, Joyce and Keith convinced me that many of my concerns are opportunities. They reminded me that I must develop strategies to take care of myself, mentally and physically, and that this is the one responsibility that I can’t share with anyone else,” Tennille noted in the e-mail. “They insisted that we have done the ugliest, hardest work, but that danger is still nipping at our heels. They asked me to think about how I would feel if everything we worked so hard to accomplish slipped away. In the end, they asked me to consider running for Chair again, and by way of this e-mail, I’m sharing with you all that I will be a candidate for chair on January 28th.”
Continuing, he wrote: “If you will re-elect me as your Chair, I will continue to work, every day, to strengthen this Party internally, to recruit and elect Democrats across the state and up and down the ballot and to make you proud to be an Arkansas Democrat. At the same time, I am making the changes needed to maintain my physical and mental health so I can keep serving this Party effectively.”
Tennille also praised the work of DPA staff in helping the party regain its financial footing and push to keep the party relevant in a deeply red state.
“I’ve mentioned many times how much I adore these folks. They are a small but mighty crew. They fight uphill … both ways. They chew nails and spit tacks, and they never complain about any of it. I’ve received accolades for the work we did in ’21 and ’22 to put our Party back on sound financial footing, but as I’ve said before, it was you all and the staff who did the heavy lifting, I just waved the baton and the music started,” Tennille noted.
Tennille was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in the 1990s before joining the communications staff of Gov. Mike Huckabee – a Republican and the father of newly inaugurated Republican Gov. Sarah Sanders. Tennille said he was a Democrat at the time but knew he wanted to be actively involved in the process, and he was loyal to Rex Nelson, Huckabee’s communications director and a former editor at the Democrat-Gazette.
Tennille left the governor’s office to work for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, then worked in the telecom industry and helped a friend in Birmingham start a business. He returned to Arkansas in 2007 to work for Gov. Mike Beebe, holding several positions and then serving as the liaison with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. When AEDC Director Maria Haley died unexpectedly, Tennille became interim director and then director. He said his work helping bring the Big River Steel plant to Mississippi County comprised the better part of three years.
Tennille then owned a consulting company that helped companies find Arkansas locations. Prior to being elected DPA chair, Tennille also worked as unpaid economic development advisor for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott.