An Arkansas state senator who is the nephew of the state’s current GOP governor is leaving the Republican Party because of former President Donald Trump.
State Sen. Jim Hendren announced his decision in a statement lamenting that the GOP now only listens “to a louder and smaller base” loyal to the former president, Talk Business & Politics reported.
Arkansas Republican calls it quits
Hendren began with a generic statement about the polarized state of American politics before pinning the blame on Trump, who he characterized as a divisive racist.
“Over the course of the 2016 campaign season alone, I heard people demonized as rapists and murderers. I watched the encouragement of the worst voices of racism, nationalism, and violence,” Hendren said, referring to Trump’s 2016 campaign rhetoric.
After many “sleepless nights,” Hendren said “the final straw” was the recent January riot at the Capitol and Trump’s alleged effort to “overturn the results of a fair and free election.”
Democrats have squarely blamed Trump for the riot, which they have described as an “insurrection,” but they failed in a second effort to impeach Trump despite winning support from 10 House Republicans and seven GOP senators.
Arkansas Democrats gladly picked up Hendren’s statement, declaring, “A leader in the Republican Party of Arkansas has declared he is leaving a party that has become too extreme, too radical, and too dangerous.” According to Talk Business & Politics, Hendren is now listed as an independent.
GOP fires back
Hendren’s criticism is not new. Anti-Trump Republicans like former Ohio Gov. John Kasich have given similar speeches accusing Trump of corrupting the GOP, and efforts by the Republican establishment to take the party back have intensified since the January riot, with the likes of former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley saying that Trump’s political career is over.
Trump remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party, however, and Republicans who voted to impeach and convict him have faced backlash. Hendren, for his part, has been called an opportunist by fellow GOP lawmakers, with state Sen. Trent Garner (R) saying he “sold out his constituents for raw political power when it suited him,” according to KATV.
Chairwoman Jonelle Fulmer meanwhile called Hendren’s move “nothing more than an attempt to garner press for a future independent candidacy for governor, knowing that he cannot compete with the conservative records of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge or Sarah Huckabee Sanders.”
A gubernatorial bid?
Hendren’s uncle, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), is unable to mount a re-election bid due to term limits, ABC News reports. Former Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running for Hutchinson’s seat, with Trump’s backing. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is also running.
As for Hendren, he said he may run as an independent, but is putting any ambitions for the office “on the back burner,” Talk Business & Politics reports.