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NWA Editorial: For Jim Hendren, Ronetta Francis

by NWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | October 21, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

Jim Hendren proves every day he’s the kind of person Arkansas needs in the state Legislature.

Hendren, serving his second term as a Republican state senator in District 2, approaches his job as someone recognizes the responsibility of governing for all his constituents, not just the ones inclined to vote for him. He’s practical, in that he understands that moving legislation requires some amount of give and take. That doesn’t mean he’s willing to compromise his values — in his case, firmly conservative ones, which fit well with the voters in his district. It means that he’s got the ability to listen to different ideas and look for common ground.

Hendren faces Democrat Ryan Craig in the Nov. 3 general election.

As president pro-tem of the Arkansas Senate, Hendren ruffled a feather or two on both sides of the aisle. We see that as a badge of honor in a world where too often, someone’s party label is seen as either a free pass or a veto stamp. Anyone who watches his Twitter feed knows that he has no patience for the politics of misdirection and division, whether it’s coming from a Republican or a Democrat. And he had no fear of calling on his colleagues to work to restore faith in the General Assembly after a handful of former lawmakers were exposed as corrupt.

He’s also willing to have the really hard political conversations. His work with Democrats on hate crimes legislation opens debate on subjects — social justice and racial tension — that too often result in politicians of all stripes diving for cover.

But those hard choices and difficult conversations, aren’t they the job of our elected officials? Don’t we demand that they lead the journey to the solutions we all want?

We do. Sending Jim Hendren back to the state senate would be a step on such a journey.

Speaking of the hard work of law-making, there are some folks in office who see their job in much simpler terms. They plant their personal flag on ideological ground and think that’s enough. And for some voters, maybe it is.

Other voters, though, expect political

be more than staking general positions and calling it a day. A substantive debate requires much more than each side getting a turn to make their case. Without listening and, more importantly, hearing, such campaigns become tired monologues that never give voters a chance to evaluate what they’re getting.

In Senate District 1, Bart Hester has served for two terms. His approach has been basic: claim conservative positions and stick to them without discussion or compromise. Lately, he’s become one of a small but growing group of lawmakers who don’t even bother with making their cases to voters in political forums or media coverage. And answer a challenging question or have a difficult conversation? No thanks.

Hester’s opponent for reelection, Democrat Ronetta Francis, has made a career of having some of those hard conversations. As a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then in corporate compliance, she was required to look closely at conflicts, disputes and long-held differences of opinion. We think that experience would translate into a lawmaker who can approach legislation with an eye toward practical solutions rather than simply picking a side before the conversation even starts.

District 1, which includes Bentonville’s downtown, is changing. It is becoming more diverse, younger and more engaged. It’s not enough for many of those voters to simply choose between red or blue. They want substance. They’re more likely to get it from Francis.

Will there be enough of those voters to make a difference in 2020? We’ll find out Nov. 3.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

Jim Hendren is an effective, practical lawmaker who deserves another term in the state senate representing District 2. Ronetta Francis would be a legislator willing to listen to all the voters of state senate District 1.

The story was updated to correct the candidates districts.

Print Headline: For Jim Hendren, Ronetta Francis

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