State Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, won't seek reelection next year and is endorsing state Rep. Jamie Scott, D-North Little Rock, to be her successor, Chesterfield said Wednesday.
"I think it's time for me to move on," she said in a brief interview. "I have accomplished a great deal, but the devolution in discourse is disheartening."
Chesterfield is a retired, 75-year-old teacher who has served in the state Senate since 2011. She was in the state House of Representatives from 2003-2009. She represents Senate District 12, which covers the eastern part of Pulaski County that includes parts of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle.
She said "this will give [Scott] an opportunity for her to stay in the Senate a longer period of time.
"I think that's important as well because the area that I serve needs to have experience and to grow that experience," Chesterfield said.
She said she could have run for reelection next year to another four-year term in the state Senate, but "I don't want to do it any more.
"I made the decision after visiting with my husband several months ago, but people have come to me and asked me to stay," she said. "That politician in me. That bit of hubris says, 'Well, maybe you ought to stay.' But I do believe now is as good a time as any to move on. It's been 20 years."
Among other things, Chesterfield said she is pleased to have served the state, particularly in supporting education programs for incarcerated and non-incarcerated youth, and supporting taxes to put the state's highways in good condition.
"I have accomplished, I do believe, a good body of work, and as the Apostle Paul said I fought a good fight, I finished my course, I kept the faith," Chesterfield said.
She also served as president of the Arkansas Education Association from 1997-2001 and on the Little Rock School Board from 1994-1997. She was the first black graduate of Hendrix College in Conway, earning a bachelor's degree in history and political science in 1969. She later received a master's degree in education from Ouachita Baptist University.
Scott, 41, has served in the state House of Representatives since 2019. She currently represents House District 72. She is Pulaski County's youth services director.
Scott confirmed she is running for the Senate District 12 seat next year.
"I am honored and grateful to have to [Senator Chesterfield's] support," Scott said. "I have big shoes to fill."
She said Chesterfield has been talking to her about the possibility that Chesterfield wouldn't seek reelection since last spring, but "we weren't going to rush to do anything."
Scott said she is concerned about the large number of Medicaid beneficiaries who have lost health insurance coverage during the past several months, about the state's education overhaul, and the costs to state and public school employees for their health insurance benefits.
North Little Rock School Board member Tracy Steele, who has served stints in the state Senate and state House of Representatives, confirmed Wednesday he is considering running for the House District 72 seat as a Democrat.
"I have been getting a lot of encouragement to run," he said, adding that he will pray and talk to his family before deciding whether to do so. Steele said he hasn't set a deadline for deciding whether to run for the House seat.
Steele, 60, is director of the state's Health Services Permit Agency, where he has served for more than seven years. He has served on the North Little Rock School Board for eight years. He also is a former executive director of the state's Martin Luther King. Jr. Commission.
Prior to the 2014 gubernatorial election, Steele said he supported then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson because Hutchinson "would be the best leader of the state." In the 2014 election, Hutchinson defeated former Democrat U.S. Rep. Mike Ross for governor. Hutchinson served as governor from 2015 until early January this year.
Chesterfield's announcement that she is not seeking reelection and Scott's confirmation that she will run for the state Senate come more than two months before the party filing period for candidates in Arkansas for state offices begins.
So far, six other state representatives have announced they won't seek reelection next year.
They are state Reps. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren; Lanny Fite, R-Benton; Delia Haak, R-Centerton; Mark Berry, R-Ozark; Milton Nicks, D-Marion; and Jack Fortner, R-Yellville.
The filing period for candidates for federal and state offices in Arkansas will be at the state Capitol in Little Rock from noon Nov. 6 through noon Nov. 14. The primary election will be March 5, 2024, with the runoff election April 2, 2024, and the general election Nov. 5, 2024.
The Arkansas Senate is comprised of 29 Republicans and six Democrats. The Arkansas House of Representatives is made up of 82 Republicans and 18 Democrats.
For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans gained control of the state Senate and House of Representatives in the 2012 elections. Chesterfield served a total of eight years in the House and the Senate with Democrats in control of the Legislature.