Pet­ti­coats Aplenty In House Cham­ber, First Bro-Sis To Serve

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - May­lon Rice Po­lit­i­cally Lo­cal

Leave it to the rul­ing fam­ily dy­nasty to set an­other Leg­isla­tive his­tor­i­cal mark in Arkansas his­tory.

Yes it is true.

The Hen­dren clan, which also in­cludes the res­i­dent Gov­er­nor of Arkansas among the rel­a­tives, will be set­ting a new leg­isla­tive mark come Jan­uary.

The Ben­ton County House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive seat, in the Gravette area, which has been a back and forth be­tween (fa­ther) Kim Hen­dren and his son, Jim Hen­dren, both serve, is now go­ing to Kim’s daugh­ter and Jim’s sis­ter, Gayla Hen­dren McKen­zie.

While Kim is re­tir­ing from pol­i­tics, fi­nally term-lim­ited in both the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the State Se­nate, Gayla Hen­dren McKen­zie won that seat in House District 92.

This will be the first time a brother (in the state Se­nate) has served with a sis­ter (in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives) and they will do so, I am sure, with their dad, Kim, and mom, Marylea, sit­ting at times in the re­spec­tive gal­leries, cheer­ing them on.

So why not, let all Arkansans cheer on this new and rare trend in pol­i­tics – a brother and sis­ter to­gether in the Leg­is­la­ture.

It is quite rare else­where in this na­tion as well.

“There have al­ways been so few women in the leg­is­la­ture, that I feel pretty con­fi­dent in say­ing they are [the first brother and sis­ter],” John Reed, the Se­nate in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, wrote in an email, to Talk Busi­ness & Pol­i­tics, re­cently.

And Reed, who was once the House in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, and son of the late Roy Reed, a noted Arkansas Gazette staffer and New York Times re­porter, knows the value of his­tor­i­cal prece­dents.

Both Kim Hen­dren and his son, Jim Hen­dren, have held the House seat in the Gravette area. It be­gan back when Kim was a Demo­crat — yes, he was a Demo­crat back in 1978, and then Kim was elected to the state Se­nate.

He ran an un­suc­cess­ful race for Lt. Gov­er­nor as a Demo­crat. A lit­tle later on, seem­ingly re­tired from state pol­i­tics, roared back to win the Se­nate seat as a Repub­li­can and later moved to the va­cant House seat in the same area, from whence he re­tires on Dec. 31, 2018.

Gayla Hen­dren McKen­zie, Kim Hen­dren’s daugh­ter, of­fi­cially en­tered the fam­ily po­lit­i­cal busi­ness Nov. 6, with an easy win (71.3 per­cent to 28.7 per­cent) against Demo­crat Chris Burch to rep­re­sent District 92.

Bunch and McKen­zie, were both first-time can­di­dates seek­ing to fill the House seat held since 2015 by Kim Hen­dren, who did not seek re-elec­tion.

The Hen­dren-McKen­zie link, will not be the first time sib­lings have served in the same leg­is­la­ture.

In fact three sets of broth­ers in the past 20 years have served in the Leg­is­la­ture.

From 2011 through 2016, Steven and David Meeks, both of the Con­way area were in the House to­gether.

From 2003 through 2012, it was two Sen­a­tors, Gene and Jimmy Jef­fress that served to­gether. Jimmy was from Cros­sett and Gene hails from Louann, in Oua­chita County. The Jef­fress broth­ers also served to­gether in the House, in 1999 and 2000.

And don’t for­get about the other set of broth­ers, who are neph­ews of Kim Hen­dren and first cousins of both Jim and Gayla. They were Jeremy and Tim Hutchin­son Jr., served to­gether in the House in 2005 and 2006.

The cur­rent sit­ting Arkansas chief ex­ec­u­tive, Gov. Asa Hutchin­son, of course is Jim and Gayla’s un­cle.

And it is also worth not­ing that more women will serve in the Leg­is­la­ture ty­ing a record set nine years ago in 2009.

Of the 100 state rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the up­com­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion, 25 are women. That’s up from 18 in 2017.

For in­stance, the Wash­ing­ton County House del­e­ga­tion is split half women and half men of the eight seats which have a por­tion or all of their House Dis­tricts in Wash­ing­ton County.

Reps. David Whi­taker, D-Fayet­teville (District 85); and Bruce Cole­man, R-West Fork, (District 81) and Clint Penzo, R-Ton­ti­town, (District 88) re­turn along with state Rep.-elect, Har­lan Breaux, a Repub­li­can from Madi­son County.

Re­turn­ing state Reps. Char­lene Fite, R-Van Buren (District 80), Robin Lund­strum R-Spring­dale, (District 87) join three newly elected Democrats in Denise Gar­ner (District 84) of Fayet­teville; Ni­cole Clowney (District 86) in Fayet­teville, and Megan God­frey (District 89) in Spring­dale.

Next week: Hol­i­day greetings from some of these solons and some who are say­ing good­bye.

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