ON THE TRAIL: Republican Brian Hester wants to “try something different” with education

Favors school choice, ‘medical freedom,’ lower state income tax

By: - Thursday October 13, 2022 5:45 am

ON THE TRAIL: Republican Brian Hester wants to “try something different” with education

Favors school choice, ‘medical freedom,’ lower state income tax

By: - 5:45 am

Brian Hester, Republican candidate for House District 22, speaks with his wife and a friend inside Farmington High School Oct. 11, 2022. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

Brian Hester, Republican candidate for House District 22, speaks with his wife and a friend inside Farmington High School Oct. 11, 2022. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

Republican Brian Hester faces incumbent state Rep. David Whitaker, a Democrat, in the race to fill the newly created House District 22. You can find a story about Whitaker here

FARMINGTON — It’s election season, but it’s also volleyball season for Brian Hester, the Republican candidate for House District 22. His daughter plays for Farmington High School and Tuesday night, Hester escorted her onto the court for senior night.

The celebration capped off a busy day for Hester, who started the morning by driving to Little Rock to tour a hospital with legislators. After returning home in the afternoon, he knocked on doors in a Fayetteville neighborhood before attending his daughter’s final home game.

Balancing work, family and a campaign can be tough, Hester said in an interview before the volleyball match.

“You really have to just have the conversation with your family early on — why you’re thinking about running, praying about it,” he said. “You know that there’s going to be sacrifices that have to be made and the number one sacrifice is time.”

Hester, a self-employed real estate appraiser, defeated Don McNaughton in the May primary with 69% of the vote to become the Republican nominee. He’s facing Rep. David Whitaker (D-Fayetteville) in the general election, a rematch of the 2020 District 85 race, which Whitaker, an attorney, won with 55% of the vote

“I still have the desire, still want to help, so one race wasn’t going to scare me off,” Hester said.

Due to last year’s redistricting process, the new District 22 still includes Farmington, but much less of Fayetteville. 

Redistricting, which occurs once every 10 years following the U.S. Census, requires the state’s 100 House and 35 Senate districts to be redrawn so each district meets various legal criteria, including that each one has about the same population size.

Hester is running again because he didn’t want to give up and said the district realignment improved things in his favor.

“We really feel like we got a good chance and as long as I get out and do the work, then hopefully things will go right on election night,” he said.

We have to improve the education in Arkansas and we’ve been doing it the same way decade after decade, so let's do something different.

– Brian Hester, Republican candidate for Arkansas Senate District 22

Education and medical freedom

Hester is a school choice proponent and said the money the state pays per student to public schools should still be paid if a child is homeschooled or attends private school. The money could help pay a private teacher or tuition costs.

This would breed competition among schools and teachers, and be good for students, Hester said.

“We have to improve the education in Arkansas and we’ve been doing it the same way decade after decade, so let’s do something different,” he said. 

Hester wants Arkansans to have “medical freedom,” and while he said vaccines can be beneficial to certain groups, he opposes vaccine mandates because people shouldn’t be forced “to put something in their body that they don’t want.” 

There’s a lot to learn about health care, Hester said, but he wants to examine the complicated issue and find ways to lower costs for patients.  

“Obviously everybody needs healthcare and it needs to be affordable,” he said. 

“We need to look at our pharmaceuticals and why they’re so expensive.”

Income tax and regulation

Hester is also interested in exploring the possibility of lowering and perhaps eventually phasing out the state income tax. To make up for the loss in revenue, he suggested looking at opportunities for cost savings. 

“Trimming the fat” in government, for example, could lead to a smaller state budget, he said.

“When you get rid of more regulation then you don’t need as many people overseeing that regulation,” Hester said. 

“And for every state job that we can get rid of, that saves the state. That salary, the insurance, the benefits, the money adds up real quick. You’d like to see that money go elsewhere.”

“Strong moral compass”

Hester began paying more attention to politics after his younger brother Bart was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 2012. The Cave Springs Republican is running unopposed in District 33. 

Brian Hester poses for a photo with his daughter and wife inside Farmington High School
Brian Hester, Republican candidate for House District 22, poses for a photo with his daughter and wife during a senior night celebration at Farmington High School Oct. 11, 2022. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

Brian Hester would make a good state representative because he’s a hard worker and a successful small business owner with “a very strong moral compass,” the senator said in a phone interview.

“All those are the types of things that anyone wants in their elected official,” he said. 

“They want somebody that’s full of integrity, is a hard worker and is going to represent them really well, and Brian’s got a lifetime history of working hard and doing the right thing.”

For Brian Hester, “there’s nothing better than getting out and getting face to face with the voters,” so he’s spent the bulk of his campaign knocking on doors.

After talking with constituents, he jots down notes from the conversation while sitting in his truck. He sends handwritten thank you notes and includes his number on election materials because he wants people to call and ask questions or for help.

Hester wants voters to know he’s real and accessible. 

“I’m a dad just like they are, I go to work every day to pay my bills just like they do, and I deal with the same issues that they deal with,” he said. “But as their representative I will definitely be in a position to help when people need help.”

Hester and Whitaker will participate in a candidate forum hosted by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Fayetteville Public Library. The event will be livestreamed.

This story is part of a series about candidates on the campaign trail in Arkansas. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Antoinette Grajeda, Arkansas Advocate
Antoinette Grajeda, Arkansas Advocate

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.

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