Longtime Republican lawmaker Jim Hendren announced this week that he would be leaving the GOP to become an independent, claiming the January 6 insurrection was the “final straw.”
“This comes after many sleepless nights; a lot of serious consideration; and it comes with sadness and disappointment,” Hendren said in an announcement. “But it’s clear-eyed. I’m making this decision because my commitment to our state and our country is greater than loyalty to any political party.”
Hendren, who is a state senator in Arkansas, said that he has watched a “systemic change at the core of our politics that emboldens our worst impulses, the most extreme thinking, disables policymaking, and hurts all of us.”
While not explicitly naming former President Trump, Hendren eluded to several of Trump’s controversial remarks. He referenced Trump’s 2015 comments calling Mexican nationals “rapists” and “murderers,” as well as his attacks on the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“I watched the encouragement of the worst voices of racism, nationalism, and violence. And I watched my service, and the service of my fellow soldiers, dishonored with the ridicule of a gold star family whose son had served with distinction,” Hendren, a military veteran, said.
He also cited Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of “fair and free election” leading up to the Capitol riot.
“I asked myself what in the world I would tell my grandchildren when they asked one day what happened and what did I do about it? At the end of the day, I want to be able to tell my family, my friends, and the people I serve that I did everything I could to do right by them. I want each of you to know that, even though I’m making this decision, I haven’t changed,” Hendren said.
He then claimed to still support the same policies and values but that the GOP has changed as a political party.
“I’m still a conservative. But I’m one whose values about decency, civility and compassion I just don’t see in this party anymore,” Hendren said. “I haven’t changed. My party has.”
He revealed that he was forming a new nonpartisan organization for the “politically homeless” called Common Ground Arkansas, aimed at finding and supporting leaders “willing to come together.”
“We want to encourage the trip across the aisle and make it easier to resist the forces that continue to push both parties to extremes,” he added. “We want to provide a home for those who don’t feel comfortable in either party, while also working with reasoned and responsible leaders from both parties.”
Take a look at his remarks below: