Bart Hester

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Bart Hester
Member of the Arkansas Senate
from the 1st district
Assumed office
Preceded by Johnny Key
Personal details
Born Bart Franklin Hester
(1977-12-09) December 9, 1977 (age 40)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ashley Brooke Dorsey Hester
Children Brooklyn, Addey Jo, and Nik Hester
Residence Cave Springs, Benton County
Arkansas, USA
Alma mater University of Arkansas
Occupation Real estate businessman

Bart Franklin Hester (born December 9, 1977)[1] is a Republican member of the Arkansas State Senate for District 1 in Benton County.

Senator Hester has drawn criticism in the past for supporting a GIF grant of $50,000 to support Eagle Ministries which focuses on marriage-counseling retreats.[2] The $50,000 grant went to a member of his church. Hester said his only problem was that he wished he could have added another zero to the amount.[3] Hester also testified in the 2018 trial of fellow Arkansas politician Jon Woods. On March 1, 2017, Woods was indicted on thirteen federal counts for his collusion in a kickback scheme involving Oren Paris, III, the former president of Ecclesia College, and numerous state lawmakers in Arkansas. As an inexperienced politician, Hester admitted that he went to Woods for advice and that it was Woods who explained how the allocation of GIF money worked.[4] Despite an earlier ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court which barred state lawmakers from controlling the allocation of federal funds, Hester continued to divert $60,000 of taxpayer money to the college.[5][6] While Hester's own testimony has implicated him in the kickback scheme, state prosecutors will likely not pursue charges against Hester until the Woods trial has concluded. Prosecutors identified Hester as one of ten Arkansas legislators involved in diverting GIF money to Ecclesia College during its kickback scheme, providing evidence of two $30,000 payments from Hester during this time.[7] Hester gave a total of $60,000 in taxpayer money to the college, placing him as the second highest contributor in the scheme, directly behind Woods.[8]


Hester graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business management from the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he was a backup catcher for the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team.[9] He is currently a real estate businessman. Hester and his wife, the former Ashley Brooke Dorsey (born 1978), have three children, Brooklyn, Addey Jo, and Nik. They reside in Cave Springs. Hester is a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Bentonville. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and the Arkansas Realtors Association.[9]

Political life[edit]

Hester was elected to the Senate from the revised District 1 in 2012, when he defeated former Democrat and moderate Republican Tim Summers, 4,506 to 3,869 in the primary election.[10] He was unopposed in the general election. Hester's first senate term expired at the end of 2016.[11] Hester received support for his campaign from Americans for Prosperity, headed by Teresa Crossland Oelke. Americans for Prosperity is a Tea Party political advocacy group backed by David H. Koch and Charles Koch (often collectively referred to as The Koch Brothers).[12][13] Teresa Crossland-Oelke's family owns and operates Crossland Construction.[14][15] The Crossland family received much of their business from Hunt Ventures, which is operated by Johnelle Hunt and Tim Graham, which is Hester's previous employer.[16] Among other things, Crossland Construction received Obama Stimulus Project contracts even as Teresa Crossland Oelke heaped abuse on the Obama stimulus program.[17]

Contributions from the Crossland"s individually or companies in which the family has an interest, according to secretary of state filings and web sources that reveal family ties: Contractors Equipment of Joplin, $2,000; Crossland Construction of Joplin, $1,000; Crossland Heavy Contractors of Columbus, Kan., $2,000; Crossland Holding Companies of Columbus, $2,000; Oelke Construction of Rogers, $2,000; Rogers Warehouse Development, $2,000; Crossland Construction of Rogers, $2,000; Benny Crossland of Joplin, $1,000; Christopher Crossland of Rogers, $2,000; Patrick Crossland of Columbus, $2,000; Crossmar Investments Investments, $1,000; ICJ real estate holdings of Rogers, $2,000; 8th Street Warehouse of Rogers, $2,000; Parkway Real Estate Holdings of Rogers, $2,000; Rescue Heroes LLC of Columbus, $2,000; Ivan Crossland of Columbus, $2,000; Macy Crossland, $2,000; Crossmar DC III, $2,000; Crossmac Investments of Rogers, $2,000; Tim Oelke of Rogers, $2,000.

Oelke-Crossland connection provided $37,000 of Hester's $88,000, equal to 42%.[18]

Arkansas State Senate, 2012-present[edit]

Hester served on the Arkansas Legislative Council and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Oversight Committee. He is assigned to these Senate committees: (1) Budget, (2) Children and Youth (vice chair), (3) City, County, and Local Affairs, (4) Revenue and Tax, (5) Rules, Resolutions and Memorials.[9]

Hester opposes abortion, having voted to ban the practice after twenty weeks of gestation or whenever fetal heartbeat is determined.[19]

In 2013, Hester joined the Senate majority to amend state income tax rates and to reduce the amount of weekly unemployment compensation benefits. He co-sponsored legislation to test the recipients of unemployment compensation for illegal use of narcotics. He voted successfully to override Governor Mike Beebe's veto of a bill to require photo identification when one casts a ballot in Arkansas. He voted against legislation to make the office of prosecuting attorney in Arkansas nonpartisan. He co-sponsored legislation to permit handguns to be carried on church properties and to forbid the release of information on the holders of concealed carry permits. He voted to allow university staff to carry concealed weapons. Hester supported legislation to permit the sale of unpasteurized whole milk within his state.[19]

Hester endorsed former U.S. Representative Asa Hutchinson in the 2014 gubernatorial election.[20] Hutchinson was handily defeated by Beebe in the 2006 election, but won the governorship in 2014 in a second run for the office.[21]



In early 2015, Hester sponsored the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, intended to supersede local gay rights laws, and it became law. Several cities and towns have passed LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances in spite of the act, however. His "gay-hating" legislation earned Hester a nomination for "Worst Person in the World" .[22][23]

In March 2015, Hester called for Springdale Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley to be fired following the release of a 2006 police report containing accusations that Josh Duggar (of the levision series]] 19 Kids and Counting) molested five underage girls, including his siblings. Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse made a statement that the public disclosure was required under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.[24] On June 30, 2015, Hester publicly stated that "It's a good day when you can pick up 1,000 rounds at @Walmart Bentonville" on Twitter, and posted a photo of the box containing the 1000-round purchase he made.[25]


Senator Hester endorsed Marco Rubio over Donald Trump in the presidential primary. Hester was very critical of Trump but has since endorsed him.[26]

Opposition to "Arkansas Works"[edit]

I think we are going to show up and kill the funding before anybody gets serious about what the next step is.

–Hester, discussing Arkansas Works on the first day of the 2016 fiscal session[27]

During the fiscal session, Governor Asa Hutchinson proposed "Arkansas Works", an expansion of the private option using federal Medicaid money to assist over 267,000 low-income Arkansans to obtain private health insurance and to reduce costs at hospitals across the state. The measure also transfers funding to the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) necessary for AHTD to meet matching requirements to receive Arkansas's full allocation of federal highway funds.[28] Hester became a vocal, leading opponent of Arkansas Works and led a "rump" group of state senators to block funding for the initiative. Although the measure gained the required simple majorities to pass (70-30 in the House and 25-10 in the Senate, with Hester opposed), rules to acquire funding for the measure require a three-fourths majority.[28]

A vote on April 14 resulted in the measure failing to achieve the required three-fourths majority, passing 95-0 in the House but failing 25-10 in the Senate with Hester and nine other Republicans opposing the measure. Hester has said the $2.6 billion of state revenues allocated to AHTD is "adequate". Hester offered cuts to the public television Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, and business incentives to fund some state programs, to which Hutchinson has said, "I don't think those are realistic proposals".[29][27] Hester said a competing proposal will be forthcoming from the Arkansas Works opponents.[27][30]


On December, 2017, the Democrat Gazette reported that Senator Hester "ignored both the state Constitution and the U.S. Constitution establishment clause in shipping $50,000 to a religious ministry run by people he goes to church with. Hester was quoted as saying "My only regret is I could not add an additional zero to that grant."[31]


On Feb. 5, 2018, Bart Hester drew sharp criticism after he tweeted, "Why higher ed does NOT need increase funding. They lease a sign to encourage computer science degrees or math teachers? No they push for dance majors. Lots of hardworking Arkansans subsidizing this! Not ok @UALR". The billboard along Interstate 30 shows a dancer to the words "dance major" and features the statement: “Unlimited pathways. Close to home.” Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields, who is studying art at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, took issue with Hester’s comments in a reply.

“I disagree with this on so many levels,” she said. “As an artist and a dancer, I have seen the arts influence, inspire, challenge and transform society.”[32][33]

Shields added that art education is “crucial in the advancement of Arkansas.”[34][35]


  1. ^ 91st Arkansas General Assembly Legislative Directory
  2. ^ "Individual Arkansas legislators OK grants totaling $50M+ in 4 years; scrutiny of projects finds holes". Arkansas Online. 2017-12-24. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  3. ^ Brantley, Max. "D-G chronicles more legislative waste of public money. Welcome to the party". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  4. ^ Davidson, Katie (2018-04-17). "Woods trial continues, State Senator Hester testifies". KHBS. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  5. ^ "GIF Declared Unconstitutional By Supreme Court | The Arkansas Project". The Arkansas Project. 2017-10-05. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  6. ^ Ramsey, David. "Text messages presented at Woods trial show alleged conspirators' successful efforts to grab GIF cash from multiple legislators". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  7. ^ Ramsey, David. "Text messages presented at Woods trial show alleged conspirators' successful efforts to grab GIF cash from multiple legislators". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  8. ^ Ramsey, David. "Text messages presented at Woods trial show alleged conspirators' successful efforts to grab GIF cash from multiple legislators". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  9. ^ a b c "Bart Hester's Biography". Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  10. ^ Brantley, Max. "Tim Summers announces for Senate". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  11. ^ "Arkansas State Senate elections, 2012". Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  12. ^ Brantley, Max. "Why we need ethics reform". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  13. ^ Brantley, Max. "Over the hump: Arkie angle in glimpse inside the Koch beast". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  14. ^ Brantley, Max. "Thursday night line". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  15. ^ "Teresa Oelke - Americans for Prosperity". Americans for Prosperity. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  16. ^ Brantley, Max. "J.B. Hunt stockholders vote for non-discrimination policy". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  17. ^ Brantley, Max. "Koch lobbyist Teresa Oelke: hypocrite of the day". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  18. ^ Brantley, Max. "Why we need ethics reform". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  19. ^ a b "Bart Hester's Voting Records". Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Hutchinson for Governor". Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Mike Ross Concedes in AR Governor's Race, Hutchinson Declares Win". FOX16. 2014-11-05. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  22. ^ Max Brantley (2015-03-10). "Worst person in the world: Bart Hester". Arkansas Blog. Arkansas Times. 
  23. ^ Brantley, Max. "Hester files promised pro-gay-discrimination bill UPDATE". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  24. ^ Henry, Larry (2015-05-23). "Senator: Springdale Police Chief Should Be Fired Over Child Sex-Crime Report". KFSM-TV/KXNW. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ Ramsey, David. "Marco Rubio now has 28 endorsements from Arkansas legislators". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  27. ^ a b c Lyon, John (2016-04-13). "Hutchinson: No Special Session On Highways If Medicaid Plan Not Funded". Booneville Democrat. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  28. ^ a b Sitek, Zuzanna (2016-04-13). "Fiscal Session To Fund "Arkansas Works" Begins At Noon". Little Rock, AR: KFSM-TV/KXNW. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  29. ^ Wickline, Michael R. (2016-04-16). "Governor: Road plan at risk if Medicaid expansion fails". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  30. ^ "Governor: Road plan at risk if Medicaid expansion fails". Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  31. ^ "Individual Arkansas legislators OK grants totaling $50M+ in 4 years; scrutiny of projects finds holes". Arkansas Online. 2017-12-24. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  32. ^ "State lawmaker says UALR billboard highlighting dance major 'not OK'; former Miss America disagrees". Arkansas Online. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  33. ^ "Former Miss America Responds To Controversial Tweet By Arkansas State Senator". Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS. 2018-02-08. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  34. ^ "State lawmaker says UALR billboard highlighting dance major 'not OK'; former Miss America disagrees". Arkansas Online. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
  35. ^ "Ex-Miss America from Arkansas squares off with state senator". Retrieved 2018-02-11. 
Preceded by
Johnny Key (transferred to District 17)
Arkansas State Senator
for District 1 (Benton County)

Bart Franklin Hester

Succeeded by