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Sen. Hendren leaves GOP for Independent status; forms new ‘Common Ground’ effort

State Sen. Jim Hendren has moved his political party affiliation from Republican to Independent and forms a new organization focusing on bipartisanship.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — State Sen. Jim Hendren has moved his political party affiliation from Republican to Independent and has plans to form a new organization aimed at working in bipartisan fashion, he announced Thursday (Feb. 18).

“Like so many of you, I look around at our country today and find it hard to recognize. I see colleagues unable or unwilling to work with each other, neighbors and families divided against each other, and our statehouse too often unable to function for the people of Arkansas. And this isn’t just because of political difference. It’s because we’ve let ourselves become deaf to other folks’ needs and perspectives. And our political parties have not only allowed this, but too often encouraged and rewarded it,” Hendren said in a lengthy press release and accompanying video (available at end of this post). 

“I also worry that our country is losing its civility in the public square. I hear language I wouldn’t want our children to hear. I see our fellow citizens turning each other into enemies because of differences of opinion or party. I’ve seen our politics become a winner-take-all game that leaves too many folks losing. And I ask myself how I can honor my oath to serve all of the people of Arkansas when we’re only listening to a louder and smaller base. Sadly, what I see is a broken system that needs to be fixed. It’s time for change and some tough decisions. 

“Today, I’m announcing that I am leaving the Republican party and will continue to serve the people of Arkansas as an independent with no party affiliation,” he said. 

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The following statements have been released about Hendren's decision to leave the Republican party:

Republican Party of Arkansas - 

“Not once, to myself or my predecessor, has Jim Hendren ever picked up the phone to express concerns. He gladly received our substantial support over the years, including a mail piece from us last fall in his bid for re-election, where he ran on the Republican ticket a mere three months ago. The Republican Party has plenty of room for differing ideas. In fact, that is what has made us the majority party of Arkansas. Some of the concerns raised by Jim stem from a presidential primary five years ago, which calls into question his motivation now. This is nothing more than an attempt to garner press for a future independent candidacy for governor, knowing that he cannot compete with the conservative records of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge or Sarah Huckabee Sanders.” 

Democratic Party of Arkansas -

"A leader in the Republican Party of Arkansas has declared he is leaving a party that has become too extreme, too radical, and too dangerous. He said what most of us already knew, that today's Republican Party of Arkansas doesn't focus on the needs of Arkansans but rather on the divisive rhetoric and issues that divide our country. 

While we applaud Sen. Hendren for having the courage of his convictions, this information about today's Republican Party of Arkansas is not news to Arkansas Democrats. We have and will continue to support and lift up candidates whose sole focus has been on the communities in which they live and the state in which they love. These candidates have been focused on healthcare, strong support for public education, and opportunities for people to provide for their families regardless of their zip code. 

Sen. Hendren's exit highlights the mistakes that have been made by blindly voting for Republicans based on the divisive national rhetoric. Arkansas Democrats have been and always will be the party that puts the people of Arkansas first."

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, 2022 Arkansas Governor Candidate -

“While I appreciate Senator Hendren’s and his family’s public service, I am disappointed by his decision to leave the Republican Party. As the first woman and first Republican elected Attorney General of Arkansas, I am proud of our accomplishments as the majority party which reflects the views and values of everyday Arkansans. We are all in this together, and I will always fight for our conservative values and constitutional rights to Make Arkansas First.” 

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