A number of new faces will be sworn in as new lawmakers for the state of Arkansas. Two of the newly elected representatives from Northwest Arkansas shared what they are doing as they get ready to head off to Little Rock for the upcoming session.
Representative-Elect Denise Garner of Fayetteville joins the largest group of women to hold offices at the state level in the history of Arkansas. It was all thanks to a movement that captured the excitement of women at the political level, with a record number running for office during the 2018 Midterm Election.
The celebration in November, in defeating four-term incumbent Republican Representative Charlie Collins, has now given way to Garner’s ongoing preparation for the upcoming session when she will be sworn in on January 14. Now, Garner is meeting with constituents at meetups and doing her homework about what she will need to know before getting down to the business of making laws for the Natural State.
“I’m reading a lot of bills,” Garner admitted. “We’ve had a lot of bills being filed. I’m trying to hear from a lot of different groups.”
District 89 Representative-Elect Megan Godfrey of Springdale will join Garner as one of 25 women in the Arkansas House of Representatives after defeating incumbent Republican Representative Jeff Williams. She said the new legislator orientation she and her fellow first-time lawmakers took part in during the early part of December will help lay the groundwork for the upcoming session which will be dominated by the strong numbers of GOP members.
“My new colleagues, who are Republicans, were really gracious,” Godfrey said. “I really enjoyed getting to know them.
“I think we started some of those conversations about where we do have some common ground. So, I think we started well, but maybe we’re all newbies and we’re not quite sure how it’s gonna’ play out.”
Godfrey and Garner were among the many women who ran for House of Representatives positions in districts Northwest Arkansas alone. Both women say that is a positive trend they want to see continue.
“There’s some research that shows it takes seven times for a woman to be asked about running before she even thinks about it,” Garner explained. “I’m thrilled that that’s changing, that’s changing drastically.”
Both of these new lawmakers agree that as long women continue to engage at both the national and local levels you can expect to see them work to find common ground on important issues that matter to women and all Arkansans. Garner and Godfrey said we can expect to see more coming from the Women’s Caucus as well.
“We listen and collaborate and find consensus in different ways just because of the experiences we have had in personal and professional settings where we need to know how to communicate well and communicate with others,” Godfrey shared.
“Experience tells me that if we can find a common goal we can reach it no matter what, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats,” Garner offered. “But you’ve got to listen and you’ve got to hear what your constituents are saying.”
We will travel to Little Rock to see Garner and Godfrey get sworn in and follow them as they begin their roles as Representatives. Click here to watch an extended conversation with both women about how they plan to overcome the challenge of partisanship, despite the fact they are members of the significantly smaller minority party.