Arkansas politics is peppered with family dynasties. Among the Democrat dynasties, we are reminded of:
- David Pryor and son Mark Pryor both of whom served in various offices including the U.S. Senate.
- Henry Wilkins III, his widow Dr. Josetta E. Wilkins, and son Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV all of whom served in the state legislature from Jefferson County.
- K. “Bill” Ingram and sons Kent and Keith all of whom served as state Senators from Crittenden County. This dynasty is ongoing as Keith is still in the Arkansas Senate.
But, the largest family dynasty in Arkansas politics is on the Republican side of the aisle. It is the Hutchinson/ Hendren family. Lets look at how they are related, their politics, and more.
The Hutchinson/Hendren family is tied together by three Hutchinson siblings, Tim, Asa and Marylea. Although Marylea (Hutchinson) Hendren didn’t follow her brothers into state politics, her husband and two children did.
The Hutchinson/ Hendren political dynasty includes EIGHT members who have been elected to a statewide or district office. SEVEN served or are serving in the Arkansas legislature, TWO served in Congress, ONE served in the U.S. Senate, and ONE is serving as Governor.
We have included Tim Hutchinson’s ex-wife in this group for three reasons: the Hutchinson name, her son Timothy served in the House of Representatives immediately before her, and she served in the House at the same time as her son Jeremy was serving in the Senate.
All the members of the family, other than Jeremy Hutchinson, ran for office from northwest Arkansas. Jeremy ran from central Arkansas.
Although Governor Asa Hutchinson was not the first in the family group to be elected, we will use Asa as the starting point to describe how each person fits in the family.
|Asa Hutchinson – Asa Hutchinson was elected to Congress and served from 1997 until his resignation on August 6, 2001 to take a federal job. He is currently Governor of Arkansas, serving since 2015.[i]|
|Tim Hutchinson (Asa’s brother) – Tim Hutchinson was first elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1985 and served until 1992. He then went on to serve in Congress from 1993 through 1996. Next, he served in the U.S. Senate from 1997 through 2002 when he lost a re-election bid.[ii]|
|Jeremy Hutchinson (Asa’s nephew and Tim’s son) – Jeremy Hutchinson was elected to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives in March 2000 and served through 2006. Under the constitution at the time he was termed out from serving in the House of Representatives. He was elected to the Arkansas Senate and served from 2011 until his resignation on August 31, 2018 due to being convicted of a felony for taking bribes and misappropriating campaign funds.[iii]|
|Timothy Hutchinson (Asa’s nephew, Tim’s son, Jeremy’s twin brother) – Timothy Hutchinson served in the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2005 and 2006. He did not seek reelection.[iv]
|Donna Hutchinson (Mother of Asa’s nephews Jeremy and Timothy and ex-wife of Asa’s brother Tim) – Donna Hutchinson served in the House of Representatives from 2007 through 2012. Under the constitution at the time she was not eligible for reelection to the House.[v]|
|Kim Hendren (Asa’s brother-in-law) – Kim Hendren first served in the Arkansas Senate as a Democrat from 1979 to 1982. Later he ran as a Republican for the House of Representatives and served 2001-2002. In 2002 he ran for the Arkansas Senate and won, serving from 2003 through 2010. He served again as a state Representative from 2015 through 2018.[vi]|
|Jim Hendren (Asa’s nephew and son of Kim Hendren) Jim Hendren served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2000. He was elected from District 1, which is the same district his uncle Tim Hutchinson served, but there was a two-year gap between Tim’s service and Jim’s service. Since 2013 he has been serving in the Arkansas Senate.[vii]|
|Gayla H. (Hendren) McKenzie (Asa’s niece, daughter of Kim, sister of Jim) – Gayla McKenzie followed her father Kim Hendren as Representative for House District 92. She is currently serving in her first term which began in 2019.[viii]|
COAT TAILS OF A FAMILY MEMBER
Sometimes a member of the Hutchinson/Hendren family grabbed the coat tails of a relative to seek the office a relative was leaving.
- Asa followed his brother Tim as Congressman for the 3rd Congressional District when Tim did not run for reelection in 1996 and instead ran for U.S. Senate.
- Jim tried but failed to follow Asa when Asa resigned from Congress on August 1, 2001 to take a federal position. Had Jim been successful he would have been the third consecutive family member to hold that office.
- Gayla followed her father Kim in representing House District 92 when he did not run for reelection in 2018.
SERVING ALONG SIDE ONE ANOTHER
The Hutchinson/Hendren family’s dynasty is not just about having several family members who have been elected to office. It is also about multiple family members serving at the same time. This even includes twins who served at the same time.
- Tim served in congress with his brother Asa. Tim was in the U.S. Senate and Asa was in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Asa served in Congress with Tim, and while Asa has been governor, four relatives have served in the legislature: Jeremy, Kim, Jim, and Gayla.
- Jeremy served in the legislature along with Timothy, Donna, Kim, and Jim, and with Asa as Governor.
- Timothy served in the legislature along with Jeremy, Kim, and Jim.
- Donna served in the legislature along with Jeremy and Jim.
- Kim served in the legislature along with Jeremy, Tim, and Jim, and with Asa as Governor.
- Jim has served in the legislature along with Kim, Gayla, Jeremy, and Donna, and with Asa as Governor.
- Gayla is serving her first term in the legislature and is serving along with Jim, and with Asa as Governor..
REPUBLICANS BUT NOT THE SAME KIND
All eight have been elected as Republicans but what kind of Republican? They differ greatly across the spectrum of the party.
- Tim and brother-in-law, Kim, appear to have the most conservative records in the family.
- Asa and Jim are on the other end of the spectrum (what we would call big government progressives and what Democrats would lovingly call moderate Republicans). Together they championed the big government program, Obamacare Medicaid Expansion, and although they brag on some tax relief measures, they also worked for taxes that increased the overall tax burden in Arkansas.
- Gayla, the last family member to be elected, seems to have more in common with her father Kim’s conservatism than with her brother, Jim’s, big government bent.
SAME FAMILY DIFFERENT STYLES
There is a difference in styles among the members of the Hutchinson/Hendren family:
- Asa comes across in public as the calmest and most restrained of the family.
- Tim was much more aggressive in fighting for his agenda which was conservative.
- Jeremy was an excellent tactician and an expert with parliamentary procedure but as Maxwell Smart would say, “If only he had used his powers for niceness, and not for evil.”
- Timothy was gone before we could pick up on his style.
- Donna just refused to give up in any political fight and it won her some victories.
- Kim shoots from the hip, which on occasion got him in hot water, but more often it was like a wild right punch rocking his adversaries. He was a landmine for any bureaucrat who thought he might escape unscathed in a legislative committee.
- Jim uses the time-honored technique of bulling and intimidating his colleagues. He is tenacious and does not admit he is wrong even when his assertions are clearly shown to be incorrect.
- Gayla is just in her first term so it will be interesting to see what style she develops in the future.
THE DYNASTY CONTINUES 2021-2022
- Asa has two more years on his term as Governor. After 2022 he will not be eligible to serve as Governor because of an eight-year term limit.
- Gayla will be back in the House of Representatives because she is running unopposed for reelection.
- Jim is running for reelection to the Senate and is expected to win against a Democrat opponent. (Normally the term of office in the Senate is four years but this time the term will be cut short to two years because of reapportionment which will modify the boundaries of legislative districts.)
DYNASTY AFTER 2022?
- Asa has a huge political machine. Having made many appointments and granted many favors and with a campaign war chest he may run for another office.
- Jim is considering running for Governor on the coattails of Uncle Asa. He tried to be Asa’s successor in Congress but lost. No one, at least in modern history, has successfully jumped straight from the Arkansas legislature to winning the Governor’s office.
- Gayla is another possibility for extending the dynasty into the future.
Whether you are for them or against them or for some and against some, the Hutchinson/Hendren family dynasty has been a part of shaping Arkansas politics for over forty years.
[iv] Historical Report of the Secretary of State – 2008