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UA Lecturer Runs for Arkansas House, Aims to Change Female Representation

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A UA instructor is running in the Nov. 6 election for the District 86 Arkansas House of Representatives position against Alderman Mark Kinion.

Nicole Clowney (D) is a Greek and Latin lecturer at the UofA in the World Language department. Clowney’s seven-year-old daughter inspired her to run for this election, she said.

Clowney’s daughter asked, during a conversation about roles in politics, if being a representative was an all-male job.

“When she said it, I sort of chuckled and thought, ‘Oh no, of course it’s not,’” Clowney said. “But when I looked at the people who were representing Fayetteville, they are, in fact, all men. That was the day I decided I was going to run.”

Greg Leding (D) represents District 86, according to the Arkansas House of Representatives website. Out of 100 Arkansas house members, 18 districts are represented by women.

Running for District 86 is Clowney’s first experience as a political candidate, she said. Clowney received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Chicago and earned a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School. She is also a founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. This group of women formed to demand action from legislators and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms.

Clowney is dedicated to creating a safe culture at the UofA by taking sexual assault seriously, she said. This means acknowledging the problem, speaking out about it and making sure students are aware of resources like UAPD and Pat Walker Health Center.

“Once students get on campus, I’m very committed to keeping them safe here,” Clowney said. “I think it’s up to elected officials to protect students from sexual assault, to protect students from gun violence and to make sure that mental health care is easily accessible. So many students are in need of those services.”

Clowney balances being a political candidate and a UA lecturer like anyone else who is campaigning while working, she said.

“I am a political candidate who just happens to also be employed at the university,” Clowney said. “I keep my campaign completely separate from my work as a teacher.”

Clowney enjoys working with young people on her campaign, she said.

“I had no idea how much energy there would be around this race,” Clowney said. “I have to say that some people, especially college-age people, are energized in a way that I certainly have never seen.”

Freshman Jenna Blakeman works on Clowney’s campaign as a volunteer by entering voter data, phone banking and canvassing, she said. She also helps the campaign through social media by posting photos of events.

“Working on Nicole’s campaign has proven to be one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had as a young person,” Blakeman said. “Campaigning for a candidate like Nicole has instilled a certain amount of hope in me during a time in which I feel skeptical, frightened even, regarding our current political climate.”

Clowney encourages young people to get involved in local campaigns because their involvement makes a difference, she said.

“I really encourage any young students to get involved in a campaign if they like,” Clowney said. “We are seeing a lot of energy coming out of those young people, and I know that the work they are doing now will pay off for them and the whole state later.”

Blakeman thinks that students should be interested in this election because it largely affects them, she said.

“The outcome of this election could have the potential of shifting our state legislature from an arguably, aged, male-dominated and conservative body toward something more democratic and representative,” Blakeman said. “Young people, working families, educators, women and marginalized groups of people have far too long been ignored by our state legislature.”

Alumnus Mark Kinion (D) is a native Arkansan running for District 86 against Clowney. He graduated from the UofA in 1980, was the Associated Student Government president and treasurer and joined multiple honors organizations, Kinion said.

“I would be supportive of the UofA in anyway that I could be,” Kinion said. “Not just to the administration but to the students that attend the UofA.”

Some of Kinion’s goals to help UA students include creating access to affordable higher education and affordable housing and supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, he said.

Running a campaign takes time and personal commitment, Kinion said. Kinion thinks he has good experience and that the representative should be someone who understands the district.

“Running for a political position is about being service oriented and making certain that you are focused on the constituency that you represent,” Kinion said. “What it takes is a good experience.”

Kinion’s experience includes being vice mayor four times, a member of the Fayetteville City Council for two terms, being a chairman on multiple committees and working on many community service organizations, like the Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality.

Students can register to vote through the Arkansas Secretary of State website. Online applications are available, or an application can be requested through mail. Applications to register must be filled out 30 days before the next election. Students can join a campaign by signing up to volunteer through candidates’ websites.

A previous version of the article, “UA Lecturer to Run for Arkansas House District 86 Against Fayetteville Alderman,” has had its headline changed to say, “UA Lecturer Runs for Arkansas House, Aims to Change Female Representation.”

It has been changed to better represent this story as a profile story rather than an election preview.

The Traveler strives for accuracy and clarity in all matters.

Tegan Shockley is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since 2017.

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