Jim Keet

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Jim Keet
Member of the Arkansas Senate
from the 15th district
In office
January 1993 – January 1997
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Jim Argue
Member of the Arkansas House of Representatives
from the 58th district
In office
January 1989 – January 1991
Preceded by Dana Moreland
Succeeded by Paul Doramus
Personal details
Born (1949-05-12) May 12, 1949 (age 67)
Springfield, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Margaret Osborn
Children James
Alma mater Southern Methodist University
Religion United Methodism

James Holland Keet, known as Jim Keet (born May 12, 1949), is a restaurant owner in Little Rock, Arkansas, a former member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Arkansas State Senate. Keet was the Republican nominee for governor of Arkansas in the November 2, 2010, gubernatorial election, but lost the race to incumbent Democratic Governor Mike Beebe.


Keet was born in Springfield in Green County, Missouri.[1] He graduated in 1971 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. He was student president for the college of business.[2] Keet has been in the restaurant business for nearly four decades. In 1975, he joined Gerald Hamra to bring the first Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers to Arkansas. Thereafter, the company developed, owned, and operated twenty-seven Wendy's and Sisters' restaurants in Arkansas and Texas, with more than 1,200 employees.[2] Keet is now the president of the Taziki's Mediterranean Café restaurant chain, specializing in Greek cuisine, in the Heights section of Little Rock and the former president and chief executive officer of Barnhill's Buffet. He and his wife, the former Margaret Osborn (born ca. 1950), have four children and two grandchildren.[3]

Political activities[edit]

Keet was elected to the state House from District 58 in 1988. In 1990, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives to succeed Tommy F. Robinson, who ran for Governor, but he lost the general election to former U.S. Representative Ray Thornton. He made a comeback when he won his Senate position in 1992 from the newly organized District 15 in Pulaski County, having defeated the Democrat John Pagan in a tough campaign.[4] As a legislator, Keet co-sponsored the "three-strikes-and-you're-out" violent offender law and worked to pass legislation to raise the state's literacy rate.[2]

In 1999, Keet was boating on Lake Hamilton south of Hot Springs, when an accident occurred that took the lives of eleven persons. Keet had four years earlier co-sponsored a bill that added several new water safety rules to the Arkansas code, including the requirement that children wear life preservers on most boats. However, the provision did not apply to duck boats, the kind involved in the tragedy, which sank within thirty seconds.[5]

Before entering the gubernatorial race, Keet had planned to seek the position of lieutenant governor, which incumbent Democrat Bill Halter is vacating to run in the party primary against U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln. Keet left his state House after fewer than two years of service to run unsuccessfully in 1990 against the Democrat Ray Thornton for the United States House of Representatives seat vacated by Democrat-turned-Republican Tommy F. Robinson, who instead made an ill-fated gubernatorial bid, having lost the primary to Sheffield Nelson, who in turn was defeated by Bill Clinton.[6]

Prior to 2002, Keet managed the Little Rock office of then U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson, who was unseated that year by the Democrat Mark Pryor. Keet left Arkansas in 2002 to manage a troubled business, successfully turning around the failing company, but returned to Arkansas in 2008.[7]

Gubernatorial race[edit]

Keet said that in his gubernatorial race, he will emphasize creative methods to improve the state's business climate, to advance literary initiatives at all grade levels, and to reform the state tax structure to foster the creation of new jobs. In his announcement of candidacy, Keet said that:

"Arkansans are sick and tired of the divisiveness and destructive rhetoric that we see on a national basis. I intend to bring a breath of fresh air to the campaign trail by discussing issues and differences of opinion constructively. I want to create a new day in Arkansas politics where everyday citizens are attracted to the political process rather than disgusted by it."[3]

Little Rock journalist John Brummett said that Keet's "gubernatorial candidacy would bring some business and political credibility. It would be about the best the Republicans could hope to wage. By prevailing legal opinion, Republicans need a candidate who gets more than 3 percent to remain automatically qualified for the [2012] ballot. Keet would beat that by quite a bit."[7]

A local political gonzo journalist, Jason Tolbert, in a column entitled "The Audacity of Jim Keet," asked what kind of campaign the former state senator will wage against Governor Beebe, whom Keet calls "a friend." Tolbert asked, "The question remains: What type of campaign strategy does Keet have the audacity to run? Will he play nice in a raise against a friend and save his biggest punches for Washington? Or, will he run hard at Beebe and try to take down his high approval numbers?"[4]

Keet has been dogged by questions surrounding his residency and whether, having returned to Arkansas in 2009, he meets the state constitutional requirement for Governor of having "been for seven years a resident" of Arkansas.[8] Keet registered to vote in Florida in 2003 and, as a legal resident of Gulf Breeze, voted in Florida elections. Despite widespread Republican success nationally and in other Arkansas races, Keet was defeated by Beebe in the general election by a margin of 65% to 33%, with the remaining 2% going to former State Representative Jim Lendall, who ran on the Green Party line. Beebe defeated Keet in all of Arkansas' seventy-five counties, making him the first Governor to do so since David Pryor's margin of 84% in his 1976 re-election over Republican Leon Griffith.[9]


  1. ^ Information provided by Kaye Donham, Assistant Coordinator/Office Manager, Arkansas House of Representatives, 350 State Capitol Building, 500 Woodlane Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72201
  2. ^ a b c "About Jim Keet". jimkeet4governor.com. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Jim Keet Announces Candidacy for Arkansas Governor, February 26, 2010". arkansasgop.org. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Jason Tolbert, "The Audacity of Jim Keet," March 7, 2010". arkansasnews.com. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ ""12 {sic} dead in tourist boat accident at Hot Springs," May 2, 1999". Northwest Arkansas Times: rrbi.com. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Republican Jim Keet to Form Exploratory Committee for Lieutenant Governor Campaign". arkansasgop.org. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "John Brummett, "Jim Keet returns . . . for governor?", February 27, 2010". arkansasnews.com. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  8. ^ Article 6, Section 5, AR State Constitution. http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/Summary/ArkansasConstitution1874.pdf
  9. ^ Brantley, Max. "Keet's residency | Max Brantley | Arkansas news, politics, opinion, restaurants, music, movies and art". Arktimes.com. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
Arkansas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Dana Moreland
Member of the Arkansas House of Representatives
from the 58th district

Succeeded by
Paul Doramus
Arkansas Senate
New constituency Member of the Arkansas Senate
from the 15th district

Succeeded by
Jim Argue
Party political offices
Preceded by
Asa Hutchinson
Republican nominee for Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Asa Hutchinson