BCN Staff — Oct. 7, 2021 — The Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) has elected the former head of the state Economic Development Commission to lead the party ahead of the 2022 elections. The DPA’s State Committee elected Grant Tennille as the new party chair at State Committee meeting on Oct. 2, officials said.
Tennille, who current serves as an unpaid advisor to Mayor Frank Scott Jr., is the former AEDC executive director under Gov. Mike Beebe, who served as Arkansas governor from 2017 to 2015. Beebe, along with former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and former state Auditor Charlie Daniels, were the last Democratic officials in Arkansas to hold statewide office.
Tennille takes over from interim DPA Chair Nicole Hart, who stepped up from the role of vice chair in September. Hart replaced former DPA Chair Michael Gray, a former legislator who resigned at the end of August to lead the newly formed Liberty & Justice, a liberal-leaning political action committee (PAC) that says it is committed to defeating other extremist candidates on the ballot in 2022 and beyond.
As head of the AEDC, Tennille’s led state negotiations to land the $1.2 Big River Steel super project in September 2014. U.S. Steel, the nation’s second largest publicly traded steel producer, purchased a 49.9% stake in Big River in late 2019 and acquired the remaining interest in January. The total purchase price for both halves of the deal exceeded $1.5 billion.
In his new role as party leader and DPA’s chief fundraiser, Tennille will seek to break the Republican Party’s stranglehold on state government strengthened while Gray was the DPA chair. today, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is serving his third term as the state’s chief executive officer and the GOP controls all constitutional offices, and congressional seats. At the State Capitol, the Republican Party also holds a supermajority in the Arkansas House and Senate.
In the runup to the 2022 primaries next spring, Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Sanders Huckabee has set an all-time record in fundraising with a whopping $9.1 million campaign haul at the end of the second quarter compared to nearly $530,000 for the top Democratic challenger Chris Jones. Campaign filing totals for the quarter ended Sept. 30 are expected to be released next week by Secretary of State’s Office.
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