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Women Make History in Arkansas State Legislature Races

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Women not only made history in Congress on Election Night, but also in the Natural State.

A record number of female state lawmakers will serve in the legislature next year. 

“Everyone is probably tired of hearing me talk about a blue wave, but there was also a bikini wave,” said Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff.

In 1919, Arkansas approved the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in all elections. Several years later, Frances Hunt and Erle Chambers became the first two women to serve together in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

By 1982, only 25 women had held seats in the House. Today, the same number will now serve together. 

“One man’s mob is another woman‘s movement,” Flowers said. “I don’t think that it’s a matter of women trying to figure out how to appeal. As a matter of fact, we need to stop doing that and just represent and deliver an authentic message. I think we saw a lot of that, and we saw a lot of wins.”

Flowers just got elected to her third term. Others in the House ran uncontested, while some newcomers beat out male incumbents in major upsets.

“I felt like our legislators were not listening to their voters, to their constituents,” said Denise Garner, the Democratic representative-elect who unseated Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville. “Our constituents have spoken loud and clear that they do not like Act 562, which is the guns on campus law which became the guns everywhere law.”

With their seven female colleagues in the Senate, a total of 32 women will serve in the legislature, beating 2009’s record by one. 

Election results have not yet been certified but if the numbers hold, these state representatives and senators will start their terms in 2019, the same year as the centennial celebration of women‘s suffrage in Arkansas.

History gives us an idea about where we don’t want to or need to be again, and it also helps us to see where we can go,” Flowers said. “I mean, we have a member with a baby who brings her to meetings, and it’s okay. I hope one day she breaks out and nurses her baby so everybody can relax.”

Flowers is referring to Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, who was elected during a special election in May to fill Sen. Greg Standridge’s seat. She defeated Democrat Teresa Gallegos in the special and Republican Bob Bailey in the primary runoff.

Her win secured the seven-women hold in the Senate, after Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, lost to Rep. James Sturch in the primary. He went on to win the general election

The 2018 midterm elections broke another legislative record. The black caucus, which usually stays static at 15 members, picked up one more this year in the House, representative-elect Jamie Scott, D-North Little Rock.