GRAVETTE -- Republican nominee Hope Duke faces Michael Gill of the Libertarian Party in the state House race for extreme northwest Benton County's District 12.
Duke's brother, Sen. Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs, became one of 12 Republicans in the 100-member state House when he first won election in the same region in 1994. Only Republicans -- and Hendrens -- have represented Benton County's northwest corner since. Duke's father, Kim, and her sister, Gayla McKenzie of Gravette, also served. McKenzie is leaving the House at the end of her current term after an unsuccessful bid for state Senate.
Republicans make up a 76-member majority in the House now, but only gained a majority in 2012.
District 12 includes Gravette, Decatur and parts of Bella Vista. It reaches the state line on both the north and the west. State representatives serve two-year terms and receive a base salary of $44,357. Early voting begins Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 8.
"I think I've learned a lot in my six years on the Gravette School Board, going through covid and dealing with virtual learning," Duke said. "The most important things I've learned is how to represent people, and that I still have a lot to learn."
"I held an at-large position on the School Board so I represented a lot of people," Duke said. "They want local control in education and in their everyday life. They want government to help with things they can't handle by themselves, but not to interfere otherwise."
One of the things locals cannot handle by themselves are traffic issues, she said. All the towns in the district are trying to cope with congestion, she said.
Children in foster care and special-needs children also need more state support, she said. "They don't get the attention they need," she said. "The people who need representation the most are those who can't represent themselves." State government gets too involved in things better left to locals at the expense of things where it could really help, she said.
Gill said he wants to run as a voice "for those who don't look to the government first as a solution but as the solution of last resort." The Republican Party is dominant now and voters need more than one choice, he said.
Gill supports more options for school choice, he said.
"My kids love the Bentonville School District," he said. "But the Bentonville district is a world away from the Helena School District" in east Arkansas. If parents had more choice in which districts their children -- and the state money that goes with students -- went to, the best schools would thrive, he said.
District 12 "has farmer families who have been here back to the Civil War and transplants who've been here a year," Gill said. "That makes pigeonholing this district into one category or another difficult. The one thing they have in common is that they look at Little Rock the same way they look at Washington, D.C. They don't want the government coming to them. Keep Little Rock in Little Rock and don't bring their dictates here."
State House, District 12
Hope Duke (R)
Residency: Gravette; lifelong resident
Occupation: Real estate agent
Education: Bachelor’s degree in science and education, University Arkansas, Fayetteville
Political Experience: Gravette School Board since 2016
Michael Gill (L)
Residency: Bella Vista since 2019; lifelong resident of Northwest Arkansas
Occupation: Truck driver
Education: Attended University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Political Experience: None