Mar 1, 2022 - Politics

Number of elected women in Arkansas dips below record high

Data: Center for American Women and Politics; Chart: Axios Visuals

At the end of 2021, 33 women held elected office in Arkansas, down from 37 — a record high — at the end of 2020, an Axios NWA analysis shows.

  • The offices are at the federal and state level including Congress, the state legislature, the attorney general and state auditor. The numbers come from the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University.

State of play: For a few weeks at the end of 2020, there were 35 women in the state legislature. This was before newly elected lawmakers were sworn in on Jan. 11, 2021, and before Rep. Jill Bryant (R-Rogers) stepped down so her husband Joshua Bryant could fill the seat.

  • He'd been prevented from running due to a conflict of interest with his job at the time as Benton County justice of the peace.
  • Three women chose not to run for reelection in 2020 and two lost seats to men.
  • However, two women — Ashley Hudson (D-Little Rock) and Joy Springer (D-Little Rock) — won office and entered 2021 as freshmen.

Between the lines: Arkansas now ranks 41st in the country for the number of women state lawmakers, at 31 out of 135 — 13 Democrats and 18 Republicans.

  • To date, no woman has been governor of the state.

What they're saying: Kelly Krout of Fayetteville is running for lieutenant governor. She believes fewer women run for elected office in Arkansas because there's a perception that a certain level of experience is required.

  • "I spend a lot of time trying to encourage women to run. There's this false idea that the qualifications are something different than what they are," Krout told Axios.
  • The only qualification to run for state representative or senate is to live in the district and be a certain age, she said (21 for representatives and 25 for senators).

What to watch: The 2022 election could increase Arkansas' ranking.

  • As of Monday, nearly 60 women had filed as state senate or representative candidates.
  • Two women are running for governor, one for the U.S. Senate and one for the U.S. House.
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