With Vince Insalaco’s announcement last week that he intends to resign as chair of the Arkansas Democratic Party effective March 25, a contest for new leadership is underway.

There are potentially three candidates in the race so far.


The party will hold elections March 25 for officers who have indicated they’ll resign (in addition to Insalaco they are vice chairs Sen. Joyce Elliott, Dawne Vandiver, Janet Johnson-Henderson and Karen Garcia). The terms otherwise would have run through the end of 2018. Some in the party have been pushing for an earlier vote and one formal grievance was filed, with particular concern about speedy filling of a Democratic National Committee seat.

That grievance is likely going to be put aside and resolved in favor of Insalaco’s callfor a March election to give potential candidates time to prepare. House Democratic Caucus leader Michael John Gray, who is seeking the party chairmanship, distributed a letter this week to the state committee indicating his acceptance of a March 25 leadership election though he said he understood the desire for urgency. He said concerns about transition time were not “unreasonable.” He said a March 25 election was a “fair solution.”


Today, Denise Garner of Fayetteville announced her intention to seek the job to replace Insalaco.

In a letter to party leaders, she said:


“As your Chair, I’ll be an advocate for those who feel like the system has been rigged against them and their voice has been taken away. If we can live our values through service and dedication in all 75 counties, in every city and every town, we can show our friends and neighbors what it means to be an Arkansas Democrat.”

Garner, a retired oncology nurse practitioner and business owner, founded the nonprofit Feed Communities in 2011 to promote access to healthy food including by supporting local food producers. She’s been active in Democratic Party politics since 1976 and has a lengthy record of public service, including an award for philanthropy with her husband Hershey.
She has a Facebook page for the effort.

Political consultant Drew Pritt is also seeking the chairmanship.