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A Sherwood mental health professional on Tuesday became the second Democrat to announce her candidacy for a Pulaski County state House seat.

Jannie Cotton, 66, said that mental health and juvenile justice reform would be two of her campaign platforms as she vies for the Democratic nomination for House District 41 to challenge incumbent Rep. Karilyn Brown, R-Sherwood.

Pilot Zach Randall, 31, of North Little Rock has also said he'll seek the Democratic nomination.

Cotton retired last year as CEO of Professional Counseling Associates, and her work in the community mental health field spans more than three decades. She said that experience uniquely qualifies her to serve in the state Legislature.

"Putting communities first and dedicating myself to be a servant unto others is what I've strived to do my whole life," Cotton said. "I have worked hard ever since I was a little girl to make sure my family and I could climb out of poverty and earn a better future. I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far, including becoming the first African-American woman in Arkansas history to serve as CEO of a community mental health organization. I look forward to the opportunity to serve my community, especially seniors and veterans, by bringing my expertise to the Arkansas Legislature."

Cotton was born and raised in central Arkansas, graduating in the final class in 1971 from Horace Mann High School before it was converted into a junior high as part of the Little Rock School District's integration efforts.

She began her career as an elementary school teacher before shifting to counseling. She has also served in several roles on health care reform and mental health committees in the state.

Brown, a technical writer, has held the House District 41 seat since 2014, and she was unopposed in 2016. She won a contested reelection in 2018 against Democrat Jonathan Crossley by a 6,345 to 5,422 margin, according to the secretary of state's office.

The district covers a portion of north-central Pulaski County.

Randall is a corporate pilot and airport duty manager for the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

He couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday, but in an August interview, he described himself as a "centrist" who wanted to foster middle-class economic growth, reduce taxes and improve health care and education.

It is the first run for office for both Randall and Cotton.

Cotton said she wants to be a voice for those who struggle with their mental health. She said that the subject has been slowly destigmatized over the previous decades, but that some stigma remains.

"It's decreasing, but it's still there," she said in a phone interview on Tuesday. "A lot of clients have told me they always felt they've done something wrong in their lives, or people were critical of them. They don't get treatment sometimes because of it."

She also said that education affordability and access would also be a campaign focus because education allowed her to escape "poverty and hopelessness."

The party filing period will be from noon Nov. 4 until noon Nov. 12. Next year's primary election will be March 3 and the general election will be Nov. 3.

State lawmakers are paid $41,393 a year in salary, while the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore make $47,277 a year in salary. In addition, they are paid per diem and mileage for attending legislative meetings.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 10/23/2019

Print Headline: New Democrat joins House race

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