- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party said Thursday he won’t seek another term, announcing his departure after three years that have been marked by Republicans making widespread gains in what had once been a Democratic holdout in the South.

Vince Insalaco, who has served as chairman since 2013, said he decided to not run for re-election despite many in the party asking him to seek another term. Insalaco’s term ends in 2019, but the party’s state committee is expected to consider a proposal this weekend to allow the party to vote on a replacement in March. House Minority Leader Michael John Gray and political consultant Drew Pritt have both said they’re running for party chairman.

“I appreciate your support more than you will know,” Insalaco said in an email to party officials and supporters. “But I believe it is time for me to move on to a new chapter of my life, so I will not seek a third term.”

Insalaco’s announcement comes after Republicans expanded their majorities in the House and Senate in the Nov. 8 election, which was followed by three Democratic lawmakers defecting to the GOP. Republicans will hold 102 of the 135 seats in the Legislature when lawmakers convene for the 2017 session next month. Republicans hold all statewide and federal offices in Arkansas. President-elect Donald Trump easily defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Arkansas, where she had spent 12 years as first lady.

Despite the political setbacks, Insalaco said the party in the past few years has been able to reduce its debts, modernize its rules and rebuild county committees.

Insalaco in May announced the party was dropping Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson’s names from its annual fundraising dinner, joining a growing number of state parties distancing themselves from the slave-owning presidents. A nine-member panel is expected to recommend a new name for the fundraiser early next year.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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