Joyce Elliott has made a career out of proving people wrong. The Democratic state senator who hails from Willisville (Nevada County) is one of the most formidable legislators in the state, a status once unthinkable for a woman of color in the South.
Given that, her recent announcement that she would seek to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill for the 2nd Congressional District seat, challenging though it may be, surprised few who know her and have followed her career.
She earned her undergraduate degree from Southern Arkansas University in 1973 and a graduate degree in English from Ouachita Baptist University in 1981. For 30 years, Elliott taught high school advanced placement and standard courses in Florida, Minnesota and Texas. In 2004, Elliott left the classroom and began working for the College Board, a nonprofit focusing on expanding access to AP classes for underrepresented students.
Following three terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives (2001-06), she was elected to the Senate in 2008 representing District 31 in central Arkansas. She is vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, a member of the Insurance and Commerce Committee, the Joint Committee on Retirement and Social Security Systems, the Legislative Council, the Joint Auditing Committee and the Joint Budget Committee.
Should she be successful in her bid for congress, Elliott would be the first woman in history to win the 2nd Congressional District seat and the first person of color to represent the district since Reconstruction.