PoliticsPress Release

Arkansas Democrats hold officer elections, Grant Tennille re-elected as Chair and Jannie Cotton elected First Vice Chair


A Unified State Party Elects Six Officers By Acclamation After Announcing Erasure of All Previous Debt

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – On Saturday, members of the Democratic Party of Arkansas State Committee held Party Officer and Executive Committee elections at Shorter College, North Little Rock’s Historically Black College (HBCU) founded in 1886. Though he initially announced he would not seek his first full term in office following the December State Committee meeting, Chair Grant Tennille stood for re-election after being persuaded by party leaders such as former State Senators Joyce Elliott and Keith Ingram and numerous State Committee and county party members. He was nominated by long-time Rules Committee Chair and DNC National Committee Man Jay Barth. Shortly after, nominations closed without a competitor for the position being nominated. 

“Friends, two months ago, I was as exhausted as I’ve ever been in my life,” said Chair Tennille in a speech following his nomination. “I felt beaten up and beaten down. I was ready for a break. Fortunately, all of us have good friends who spent time talking to me and working with me. They made me understand that this moment in Arkansas is fraught with danger, and with possibility.”

The nearly 200 State Committee members and guests in attendance held signs promoting the recently introduced RAISE Act, which would provide every public school teacher in Arkansas with a $10,000 raise and replace the state’s worst-in-the-South starting pay for teachers with region-best $50,000. A companion bill would also raise the minimum wage for classified school staff to $15 per hour. Every Democratic legislator in the House and Senate co-sponsored both pieces of legislation.

“We need to tell Arkansans, again and again, that Democrats in our legislature are the only ones fighting to get our teachers paid what they deserve,” said Chair Tennille. “They need to know that Democrats are the only one’s fighting to preserve our public schools, which are the heart and soul of so many communities in this state.”

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Chair Tennille, along with Finance Director Christina Mullinax and outgoing Treasurer Philip Hood, announced that the State Party had eliminated all outstanding debts from previous elections. 

“As of this week, we are no longer tethered to the mistakes of the past,” said Chair Tennille. “This is your party again, and I promise you that we will never make those mistakes again.”

Director Mullinax announced that the State Party’s monthly donor program, Heart of the Party, has seen a surge of membership since December with nearly 100 new members supporting the party with $5, $10, or $25 each month. In January alone, the State Party added over 43 new Heart of the Party members. The finance report noted that 42.9% of committee members donated monthly or via larger donations, an increase from the 27% reported at the last meeting in December.

Jannie Cotton, a retired CEO and mental health policy leader from Sherwood, won election as the State Party’s First Vice Chair. Vice Chair Cotton has deep connections across the state through her leadership in the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus and her two highly-competitive runs for State Representative in District 67. Immediately following her election, she was already working with staff to determine work she needed to complete and travel arrangements to the DNC meeting next week in Philadelphia. Party members noted that Vice Chair Cotton’s extraordinary work ethic and commitment to Arkansas will afford her the opportunity to thrive and build on the success of outgoing Vice Chair Nicole Hart. 

“We have got to raise money, but we’ve got to invest in voter engagement,” said Vice Chair Cotton. She noted that she intends to travel the state with Chair Tennille and party members to mobilize the hundreds of thousands of Arkansans who haven’t voted in the most recent elections. Vice Chair Cotton noted that there are numerous opportunities for party growth, such as in Crittenden County where 2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones lost by just one vote.  

Dustin Parsons, an educator in Bauxite, won re-election as Vice Chair for County Committees. Under his leadership, county party membership has expanded and more counties are equipped with vital resources to grow their memberships. Working with Director Mullinax and Director of Strategy Will Watson, Vice Chair Parsons has expanded the share of local county party members donating monthly to the State Party. House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough of Little Rock nominated Vice Chair Parsons, noting his leadership and passion for expanding support for educators in Arkansas’s public schools. Representative McCullough, a retired teacher herself, called him “an excellent teacher and leader for Arkansas.”

Darlene Goldi Gaines of North Little Rock, the party’s nominee for Commissioner of State Lands in 2022, won election as Treasurer. Joshua Price of Maumelle, a former Pulaski County Election Commissioner, won a four-term as State Party Secretary. Gracie Ziegler of Fayetteville, a long-time party activist and leader in Northwest Arkansas, won election as Vice Chair for Auxiliaries, following a special moment where outgoing Vice Chair Debi Council nominated Ziegler, calling her “a leader who has long committed herself to the betterment of our party.”

Following the officer elections, congressional district caucuses of State Committee members elected new Executive Committee members. Their role as the executive body of the party includes approving financial decisions and budgets and making recommendations to the State Committee on important matters such as the upcoming 2024 Delegate Selection process. Party rules state that Chair Tennille will appoint four additional members of the Executive Committee in the coming weeks.

“I’m standing here today, proud of what we have accomplished, together, in an incredibly short period of time. But from this day forward, all of that is in the past. The road to 2024 begins now, and the task before us will require the focus and dedication of everyone in this room, and a whole lot of others across Arkansas,” said Chair Tennille as the meeting concluded.  

Party Officers were elected for four-year terms and will serve until the first State Committee following the 2026 gubernatorial election. Executive Committee members were elected to two-year terms. 

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