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The protests over House Bill 1228 put not only Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state in the national spotlight, but also the governor's 31-year-old son, Seth Hutchinson, thanks to a plug from his father.

The son's name came up at a news conference the governor held to announce that he had asked lawmakers to recall the bill and amend it to more closely resemble the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Hutchinson, noting a "generational gap" in thinking about gay marriage and other social issues, said Seth Hutchinson had signed a petition seeking a veto of the bill.

In fairly short order, news articles in the online editions of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other online publications appeared focusing on the governor's son and highlighting the stark political contrast between the two, a divide the younger Hutchinson said stemmed from his low-pay, part-time work growing up and seeing the struggles of the adults working those same jobs.

The father -- a Republican governor and a former member of Congress; the son -- a Texas union organizer who sports an "Arkansans for Obama" T-shirt on his Facebook page.

By Wednesday afternoon, the offices of the Texas State Employees Union were "swamped" with media requests for Seth Hutchinson, prompting him to post a statement about HB1228 on Facebook, according to a person who answered the telephone.

Hutchinson, who lives in Austin, Texas, is vice president of the executive board of the union, which boasts 12,000 members and is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America. He also is the union's organizing coordinator.

"I wanted to be a union organizer since I was 20 [years old], he said. "I wanted to make it my life's work for social justice, particularly in the South."

The younger Hutchinson will be heading to his own state Capitol in Austin with other issues on his agenda. He is helping put together his union's lobby day, Wednesday next week, when members of the union are bused in from all over Texas and highlight their concerns in meetings with lawmakers.

"We're pushing for increases in the budget for state services and public universities, for lower tuition," Hutchinson said. "These services benefit everybody. For a long time, they haven't been dealt with.

He said he and his longtime partner, Julia, have been together for nine years.

Seth Hutchinson was born and raised in Fort Smith and attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for a year before transferring to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and graduating with a major in Spanish and a minor in history.

He said he remains close to his father. He was home for Christmas and spent election night at his father's victory party in November. But he hasn't been to the Governor's Mansion yet.

Talking politics with his father wasn't new.

"We've always talked about politics," said the younger Hutchinson, who noted the politics of his three siblings more closely resemble his father's conservative views. "Politics was always part of the discussion around the dinner table."

But this conversation this time was different, he said.

"This particular issue really hit home with me," he said. "I've been following the fortunes of the issue. I have a lot of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] friends in Arkansas, and I knew it would have a direct impact with them."

And he continues an abiding interest in Arkansas politics and, for that matter, the Razorbacks. ("Go Hogs," he said in his Facebook post.) "I always watch politics in Arkansas. It's still my home state even though I live in Texas."

So with the HB1228 vote looming, he called his father Saturday. They also spoke before and after the governor's news conference on Wednesday. His father even asked if it was OK for him to use his name.

But Seth Hutchinson wasn't about to claim credit for his father's decision to ask lawmakers to revise the bill. "It wasn't just one person, any one person. What matters is when hundreds of folks take collective action and win something."

Metro on 04/02/2015

Print Headline: Governor's union-organizing son in spotlight

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