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