Watch List

We want our elected officials to act right. We'll tell you who does and who doesn't.

Obstructors

Sen. Jason Rapert

  • Berates, bullies and blocks Arkansans on social media

  • Epitomizes partisanship and extremism

  • Will stop at nothing to climb the AR political ladder

Division within our Capitol is running rampant, and one of the biggest proponents of this is Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway. From opposing bipartisan legislation, discrediting a global health pandemic, to racking up lawsuits over blocking constituents on social media, he’s about as divisive as it gets. 

Rapert is known for pushing legislation that would harm vulnerable communities– legislation like stand your ground and SB289, which would give healthcare professionals the ability to deny care based on religious beliefs.

Rapert is also being sued for blocking constituents on social media sites. We know that Arkansans expect honesty from their legislators, and blocking people effectively prevents them from participating in the legislative process.

On December 15, 2020, Arkansas Times reported that Federal Judge Kristine Baker refused to dismiss Rapert as an individual defendant in the lawsuit over his blocking commenters on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. This was a huge win for Arkansans and transparency. 

Rapert was also quoted criticizing Governor Asa Hutchinson for his mask mandate in response to the deadly Coronavirus, saying the mandate was “an overreach of executive power,” in a social media post. He went on to say “I believe this mandate was ill timed and not necessary.”

Rapert was later diagnosed with COVID-19 and changed his tone slightly regarding the deadly virus, saying the “virus is serious and can attack anyone regardless of age or general health.”

But above all else, Rapert is a bully. Hemant Mehta, in a video titled “I Got Threatened by Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert,” cites an incident he had with Rapert around 6 minutes into the video. The interaction happened shortly after Rapert was diagnosed with COVID-19. Mehta references an Arkansas Times article about two women who poured olive oil on the 10 Commandments statue to anoint it. Rapert fought to have the statue installed on the Capitol grounds, so Mehta asked Rapert for comments in a facebook message. 

“Hey there, hope you’re back home and feeling better. If you have any comment about the women who were anointing the monument (is that something you’re okay with?) Please let me know,” Mehta asked. Raptors response was one you’d hope wouldn’t come from an elected official, but considering his history, it wasn’t surprising. 

“You and your little demon buddies were responsible for tons of messages wishing me to die… you little jerk,” Rapert said. “You crossed a line that you will regret.”

This isn’t the first time Rapert has lashed out. In 2016, Rapert was caught on camera berragting state  Rep. Lori Saine, Colorado, a fellow delegate at the Republican National Convention. Rep. Justin Everett, another delegate from Colorado, explained what happened. 

“He got in her face and started preaching to her,” Everett said. “He started getting elevated and started getting louder and louder and louder, until he was literally yelling at her about not being a good Christian and not having values.”

Rapert is the epitome of partisanship and extremism. What’s worse is that he’s running for Lieutenant Governor in 2022. His behavior cannot continue to go unchecked. Elected officials have a duty to listen to their constituents, but Rapert continues to ignore the needs of Arkansans, bullying those who don’t see eye to eye with him, recklessly pushing for legislation that would hurt families, and further dividing the state legislature with no effort for bipartisan leadership. Arkansans deserve much better than Jason Rapert. 

Sen. Bob Ballinger

  • Against Gov. Hutchinson’s bipartisan Hate Crimes legislation

  • Consistently runs legislation that would harm Arkansans

  • Seeks to inflame, divide and bully on his social media platforms

On January 26th, Representative Aaron Pilkington, R-Clarksville, tweeted about his proposed bill to eliminate sales tax on feminine products in Arkansas. He ended his tweet saying “we shouldn’t be taxing such products.” If passed, Arkansas would be the 21st state to eliminate this tax, and with many Arkansans continuing to struggle due to COVID-19, this bill would help numerous people in our state during this difficult time.

Shortly after Pilkington expressed his eagerness to be sponsoring the bill, Senator Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, the illustrious author of SB 24, Stand Your Ground, responded in a way that can only be described as egregious and shocking.

“We’re killing this you sissy.”

Ballinger claims this was merely a joke between friends, later tweeting a picture of Pilkington and receding his previous comment, saying “[Pilkington] has many apparent flaws, but he is no ‘Sissy’.”

Regardless of Ballinger’s intentions, his choice of rhetoric was questionable at the best — especially considering he was responding to an issue that affects over half of our state’s population.

This kind of behavior has no place in the State Capitol, and as Arkansans, we expect our representatives to act with decency. There is a very important question we need to ask ourselves here: is this the kind of person we want representing us?

Sen. Trent Garner

  • Against Gov. Hutchinson’s bipartisan Hate Crimes legislation

  • Consistently runs legislation that would harm Arkansans

  • Seeks to inflame, divide and bully on his social media platforms

Forty-six states currently have hate crime laws in effect, and Arkansas is one of four who has yet to follow suit. In 2001, Sen. Joyce Elliott attempted to pass a similar bill, but unfortunately it was unsuccessful at the time. This year we have an opportunity to change that.

Senator Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, and Representative Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville, have proposed bipartisan legislation to implement hate crime laws in our state. This effort is even being supported by our Republican Governor, Asa Hutchinson.

“It’s in the right message by who Arkansas is that we are not a state that tolerates people being targeted because they are different,” said Hutchinson.

With a clear bipartisan effort and support from the Governor, how could anyone speak against such a common sense issue that so many states have already set in motion?

Senator Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would be that naysayer. He was a “hard no” on the issue, going as far to write an op-ed declaring his opposition.

“The hate crime bill is little more than window dressing,” he wrote, calling it “political theater,” and a “superficial display.” He also took to twitter, calling it “extremist” and claiming it would only add inequality to the justice system.

This behavior is typical of Garner. Just days after we watched our Nation’s Capitol be defiled by rioters and insurrectionists, Garner told his fellow legislators, who had expressed safety concerns, to “buck up and stop cowering” publicly on social media. He went on to say “it’s more dangerous in downtown Little Rock on a random day than it is at the Capitol during this made-up ‘insurgency’.”

The truth is that Garner, like other state senators, has built a reputation since he’s been in the legislature- and not a very good one. Tantrums are not uncommon for him, and it truly is unbecoming. If you scroll through his Facebook or Twitter, you’ll quickly see dangerous rhetoric in post after post.  His behavior should not be, and is not, representative of Arkansans. We must hold him and other legislators accountable for their words and actions.

Rep. Mark Lowery

  • Repeatedly violates Arkansas’ ethics code

  • Consistently runs legislation that would harm Arkansans

  • Uses smoke screens to try and pass harmful legislation

Denying the right of students to learn Black History is denying the right to learn Arkansas History, and Representative Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, is proposing legislation that does just that. HB1231 would ban the teaching of the 1619 project, an effort to examine the systematic effects and consequences of slavery.

Lowery, in a meeting with the Legislative Black Caucus, called the project a “narrative,” denying it as history, going as far to say that it’s “almost child abuse,” because some white students might feel uncomfortable learning the harsh reality of slavery. That’s right, he used the term “child abuse” to justify banning Black History in Arkansas.

Representative Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, pointed to her experiences as a black student, saying “throughout my entire education, I was uncomfortable reading texts and talking about different issues that rarely included me.” This is the case for so many students in Arkansas, and the proposed legislation would further diminish these students’ experiences and history.

This isn’t the first time Lowery has pushed for legislation that would effectively harm the rights of Arkansans, either. Earlier in the session he filed a harmful voter ID bill that would remove the option for signature matching, forcing all voters to present a photo ID when voting, even absentee voters. Yet again, this would disproportionately affect our vulnerable communities. Why is Lowery so focused on harming the people of Arkansas?

Let’s not forget that this lawmaker has trouble following the law himself, racking up ethics violation after ethics violation. In 2013, 2016, and again in 2020, Lowery paid his slap-on-the-wrist fines to wipe the slate clean, but where’s the accountability? He neglected this responsibility as a candidate, blaming poor eyesight on the 2020 violation, and an “administrative error” in 2016.

How can the people of Arkansas trust Lowery with writing legislation if he can’t follow the law himself?

Having a seat at the Capitol does not exempt you from legal action, nor should it. The good people of Arkansas deserve better.

Rep. John Payton

  • Obstructs good legislation to score political points with his party

  • Refers to Springdale’s Marshallese as “outsiders”

The House State Agencies Committee heard HB 1334, the Marshallese Law Enforcement Act, on February 8th, and it failed via roll call vote. This bill would allow Marshallese community members to work as Law Enforcement members. 

HB 1334 had overwhelming support from law enforcement, Marshallese leaders, bipartisan legislators, and the governor. So why did it fail?

Representative John Payton, R-Bebe, spoke against this bipartisan bill, saying “I can’t get comfortable with it.” 

What could possibly be uncomfortable about this? Representative Godfrey, D-Springdale, sponsor of the bill, mentioned the fact that non citizens can serve in the United States military, and this bill would simply allow members of the community to feel more comfortable, citing language barriers and more. If someone can give their life for the county, why shouldn’t they be able to do the same for the place they call home?

Payton went on to imply that Marshallese people are outsiders in our state, saying “we all love [the Marshallese] community, we appreciate them, but letting non citizens serve as state police and auxiliary… I can’t get comfortable with it.” 

And there’s that word again, comfortable. Payton’s comments highlight an underlying systemic issue that we cannot let continue in Arkansas. A number of people call our state home, including non citizens, and it is the job of the Legislature to ensure the safety and prosperity of all who live here, no matter how uncomfortable that might make them. Perhaps Payton should consider a new line of work since he’s so squeamish in the face of good legislation. 

Rep. Mary Bentley

  • Uses power to attack marginalized communities

  • Lacks empathy and professionalism

  • Weaponizes the Bible to pass hate-filled legislation

Trans Arkansans were under attack during the 2021 General Session.  One legislature took it to another level when she called all Trans people abominations from the well.

While speaking for HB1570, which bans gender-affirming treatment for Trans youth, Rep. Mary Bently used scripture to justify denying healthcare and undermining parents– calling Trans kids “abominations,” suggesting that they’d be better off if left alone. 

Soon after she filed HB1749, which would require teachers to call students by the name on their birth certificates. Bently claimed this wasn’t an attack on Trans kids, but else would it be? HB1749 failed, but four other anti-trans bills passed and have been signed into law. 

Recently in a legislative committee meeting, Bently and other Watchlist members, raked University of Arkansas officials over the coals for Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz’s recommendation to remove to move Fulbrights statute from Old Main. Bently claimed that efforts of inclusion are divisive and lead to exclusion. She cited Christianity, but was unable to pinpoint exactly how Christians had been excluded. 

Bently’s behavior and outright hatred for marginalized communities can no longer be tolerated. Like many other representatives, Bentley operates within her own values and vendettas. Her values? They don’t align with what’s good and fair. Arkansans deserve leaders who will listen to and work for the people.

Collaborators

Sen. Jim Hendren

  • Works across the aisle

  • Prioritizes legislation that helps Arkansans

  • Finds common ground

Arkansans are ready for bipartisan leadership in our state, and one member of the state legislature embodies this principle like no other. We’ve seen the legislature fill with bolstering personalities over the years, but Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, has emerged as the voice of reason within the Senate Republican Delegation.

During the 93rd General Assembly alone, Sen. Hendren has sponsored and supported legislation that would better our state, like SB3 and HB1020, hate crime bills that create a 20 percent sentencing enhancement for hate crimes. Arkansas is one of four states that has yet to enact such legislation

He’s also taken a stand against the extremism in the Senate, bringing common sense back to the Capitol. SB24 passed the Senate floor by a vote of 27 yeas and 8 nays; Hendren was the lone member of his delegation to vote no and the only one to speak against the bill.

“This is a real concern that people who don’t look like me have,” he said, calling attention to the fact that this bill would hurt Black and Brown communities in our state more than those running the dangerous legislation. 

Real leaders put constituents before themselves, and that’s what Hendren has shown time and time again. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, authored HB1342, a bill that would allow Marshallese people to serve as law enforcement officers. Hendren, along with law enforcement agencies and the Governor, all supported the legislation. Unfortunately this bill failed in committee. 

“So the federal government says the Marshallese can serve in the US military but #arleg says they can’t serve in law enforcement. C’mon y’all,” Hendren said in a tweet shortly after the bill failed. 

We all know that the way to better our state and save our democracy is to work together and find common ground. Hendren is willing to take a stand against extremist behavior, and we need more leaders in our state who will do this. 

Rep. Jim Gazaway

  • Works across the aisle

  • Drafts legislation that helps working Arkansans

  • Finds common ground

Bipartisan efforts are crucial for our Democracy to work effectively, and Representative Jim Gazaway, R-Paragould, has worked across the aisle since his first term in 2019.

During his first legislative session in 2019, Gazaways authored HB 1410, which would give renters rights in Arkansas and force landlords to provide habitable standards for their properties. Arkansas is listed as one of the best states for landlords and one of the worst for tenants. The bill was killed in committee, but it’s made it way back  this session via a joint resolution authored by Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville.

In 2019 Gazaway also cosponsored SB 487, authored by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, which would have required the Legislative Council to conduct an assessment of the culture and climate of the Department of Correction. The purpose of the bill was to ensure fair treatment of our inmates, and to figure out what legislation needed to be passed to do this. SB 487 died on the calendar.

This year Gazaway continues to work on legislation that would benefit Arkansans, like HB 1324, which would give pregnant women priority when it comes to substance abuse treatments and would prevent refusal solely based on pregnancy. 

He also proposed a bipartisan joint resolution, SJR 6, with Sen. Clark Tucker, D-Little Rock, which would eliminate party primaries completely and allow voters to vote in every contest, regardless of political affiliation. 

Arkansans are tired of partisan play from our representatives. We expect our leaders to be able to set aside differences and work together. Representatives like Jim Gazaway, who are willing to put forth legislation for the betterment of Arkansas, are exactly who we need to move us forward.