Arkansas House District 11 candidates want lower taxes, living wage for constituents

headshots of Rebecca Burkes and Rey Hernandez

Republican Rebecca Burkes and Democrat Rey Hernandez are seeking to represent House District 11. (Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office)

Both candidates running for House District 11 hope to support working Arkansans.

If elected, Republican Rebecca Burkes said she would focus on lowering taxes and lightening regulations and restrictions on small businesses.

“Having been a business owner myself and understanding what it means and the things that business owners have to go through to operate, I want to unleash them and remove burdens that hold them back from being able to succeed,” she said.

Burkes founded a residential and commercial real estate development, construction and brokerage company with her husband.

Democrat Rey Hernandez, a commissioned security officer, said he supports a living wage instead of a minimum wage. While the state’s minimum wage has increased, Hernandez said workers making just above that threshold often don’t receive raises as a result of that increase.

To be more equitable, Hernandez said one option could be requiring large employers to give raises to those workers that match the minimum wage increase.  

“I’ve got some ideas of how we can structure that, how we could do it, but we have to get everybody past the idea that a minimum wage is a good thing and let them understand that what’s better is a living wage.”

Redistricting

House District 11 Map

District 11 was created during the 2021 redistricting process. Following the U.S. Census each decade, officials are required to redraw boundaries for the state’s 100 House and 35 Senate districts to meet various legal criteria, such as having about the same population size.

The governor, attorney general and secretary of state comprise the Arkansas Board of Apportionment, which approves the new boundaries. Proposed districts were first presented in October 2021, and the board gave final approval last November.

House District 11 includes the western portion of former House District 89, which was removed during the redistricting process to create the new House District 9, the state’s first Hispanic-majority district

In District 11, there are 29,776 residents, with 21,070 of voting age, according to redistricting data. Of the total population, 35% are Hispanic and nearly 10% are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

There are 12,910 registered voters in the district, which includes portions of Benton and Washington counties, according to data obtained from the secretary of state’s office. Race and gender are not included on the voter registration application or in the voter database, according to a secretary of state’s office spokesman.

Within Springdale, District 11’s boundaries extend to Sunset Avenue to the south and Gutensohn Road to the east. The district includes part of downtown Springdale, but most of it reaches northward into Benton County and eastward toward Beaver Lake.

Taxes

Republican Rebecca Burkes speaks with guests at the annual Chickin, Peelin’ and Politickin’ event in downtown Springdale on Oct. 6, 2022. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

This is Burkes’ first time seeking public office. She defeated Robert Fair in the Republican primary with nearly 79% of the vote.

She previously worked as deputy director and general counsel at the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Burkes said she gained experience working in the executive branch in that role, has experience with the judicial branch as an attorney and is “excited to jump into the legislative branch” as a state representative. 

Burkes is “absolutely in favor of lowering the income tax.” To make up for the lost revenue, she said legislators can look at what has worked well for other states. 

“If we can get the income tax lowered, that’s great. If we can eliminate it, even better,” she said. “Of course we have to be mindful of our budget in Arkansas as well.”

Burkes also said cost savings could be generated by encouraging more efficiency within government to eliminate waste. 

District 11 includes a diverse population of constituents and Burkes said she’s already working with the Arkansas chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in order to “connect with and hear from the voices of folks in that population.”

“And honestly what I hear when I knock on doors, it doesn’t matter, everybody’s concerned about inflation, everybody’s concerned about schools, they want good schools for their kids, they want safe communities,” she said. “These are universals that everybody wants to know about, but I have been very excited and eager to talk to folks of all backgrounds as I go through this campaign.”

Representation

Democrat Rey Hernandez speaks with guests at the annual Chickin, Peelin’ and Politickin’ event in downtown Springdale on Oct. 6, 2022. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

Hernandez is no stranger to public office. He was appointed to the Benton County Quorum Court from 2013-2014 to serve out the term of a justice of the peace who moved out of the district. Hernandez had unsuccessful bids for Benton County JP in 2016 and Benton County assessor in 2018.

Hernandez said the number one reason he’s qualified for state representative is because he’s lived in Northwest Arkansas for more than 30 years and knows what’s important to local residents. As the son of Mexican immigrants, Hernandez said he also represents the diversity of the area.

“I think the fact that I am bilingual will give the constituents an opportunity to talk to somebody in a language that they’re comfortable speaking in,” he said.

If elected, Hernandez would be the first Latino member of the General Assembly to serve Northwest Arkansas, which has one of the highest populations of Hispanic residents in the state.

While representation is important, Hernandez said he’s more than just Latino. He’s also a Marine veteran and grandfather who has worked for educational institutions. Hernandez said he wants to represent the entirety of his district. 

“I don’t want to be typecast as the Latino candidate that’s going to represent just Latinos,” he said.

Additionally, Hernandez supports increasing teacher salaries and said he’s more concerned about people than party.

“I plan to listen to people and find out what they want and actually represent them when I’m in Little Rock rather than going down there with my own ideas and predetermined notions of what the people need,” he said.

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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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