May 22, 2024

Meet The New 1995 Society Member: Nicholas Horton

By: AF Editors

Meet The New 1995 Society Member: Nicholas Horton!

A lifelong Arkansan, Nicholas Horton has done political and policy work in roughly half the country, ranging from Maine to Montana. His original research and analysis has been highlighted in The Wall Street JournalFox NewsForbesNational Review Online, the Washington Examiner, and Townhall, among other national outlets. Nic has also appeared on numerous talk radio shows across the country.

Starting in the political world volunteering for local in Arkansas campaigns, Nic eventually founded and led The Arkansas Patriot, one of the leading conservative news sites in the South. Much of Nic’s work focused on holding local governments and elected officials accountable on wasteful spending, lack of transparency, and tax hikes. Partnering with local concerned citizens, Nic played an instrumental role in defeating numerous local tax increases at the ballot.

Nic later became the editor of The Arkansas Project, the largest policy news site in Arkansas, where he covered state issues ranging from criminal justice policy and tax reform to Medicaid expansion and occupational licensing.

Nic’s early career as a journalist and Medicaid policy enthusiast led him to the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). Starting as the lone research fellow at FGA, focusing on Obamacare and Medicaid, Nic was quickly promoted to Research Director. Over the next five years, he built the department from the ground up by recruiting, training, and developing top-notch talent. Nic’s team members regularly were recruited and promoted by other departments in the organization which was openly recognized as a key asset for the company and an indication of his high ability to develop talent. During his tenure, he published more than 50 major research studies.

During his tenure at FGA, Nic also served as an on-the-ground lobbyist in Arkansas, where he was directly responsible for nearly 100 policy wins in the state (Previously, the organization had never achieved any policy wins in Arkansas). These wins range from implementing Medicaid work requirements—which made Arkansas the first and only state in the country to do so—to reforming the state’s archaic independent contractor rules to make it easier for Arkansans to find flexible work.

Nic has testified before legislative committees in nearly a dozen states, including in Arkansas and bigger states like Pennsylvania.

Spurred by his passion for Arkansas and solving his home state’s generational problems, Nic took a giant leap of faith in 2022 to pursue his decades-old dream of running his own policy organization. In August of 2022, Opportunity Arkansas was officially incorporated with the state of Arkansas. OA solves generational problems—like poverty, dependency, crime, and failing schools—by simplifying government.

Nic also launched his for-profit research firm, Red Truck Strategies, in 2022 to allow him to continue utilizing his multi-state and federal policy expertise. The firm provides research, data, and strategic consulting services, primarily for national conservative non-profits.

Nic resides in Conway, Arkansas, with his wife, Leah, and two children, Clark and Clara.

When he is not writing a policy piece or chasing his kids, Nic enjoys gardening, any good home improvement project, and storytelling. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and a Master of Business Administration, both from Harding University.

Read below to learn more about Nic!

What moment or opportunity in your life played the most significant part in getting you to where you are today?       Meet The New 1995 Society Member: Nicholas Horton 6

Two big moments immediately come to mind: the day I became a dad and the day I lost mine. Becoming a parent changes your perspective on everything. My priorities changed; and I developed an even deeper passion for protecting our American way of life because I know freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction — and my kids are daily reminders of that. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they have the same if not better opportunities than I have.

And then anyone who knows me or knows the story of Opportunity Arkansas knows how much losing my dad just a few years ago changed the entire trajectory of my life. My dad spent his whole earthly life helping and serving others. I want to do the same, which is a huge reason why I started Opportunity Arkansas.

Losing him, my best friend and my best man in my wedding, it changed my life forever. Time here is short and I know I am here for a reason, in this state at this time. And I want to be sure, as my dad taught me, that I “return it better than I found it.”

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career so far

I got my start right out of grad school working for a startup think tank in Arkansas. After a few years there, I was recruited by a national startup that was working in about two dozen states. We were a very lean team, about 6 or 7 of us full time, so working in that many states, we were all wearing multiple hats every single day. Some days I was on a plane, writing a research paper while on my way to do legislative testimony somewhere I had never been. Other days, I was phoning in to talk radio stations in the morning on the east coast and writing a memo to western legislators in the afternoon. During the Trump years, we were also doing a lot of work with the White House and I was also leading our government affairs work in Arkansas—on top of managing about 7 full-time researchers and taking responsibility for developing our annual policy agenda. Juggling all of that, while working remotely with coworkers from different regions and cultures across the country, it stretched me in ways I didn’t know I could stretch. Delivering results, with excellence, while juggling so many things; trying to balance family and life but also being fully committed to the work. Trying, and sometimes failing, to keep perspective and treat others like I wanted to be treated, even when the pressure was on and we had to deliver big results. Trying to develop a young team of varying backgrounds and talents, but do it remotely with very little in-person time.

There are definitely some things I would change if I had to do it all over again, but that experience and working for two startups prepared me exceptionally well to do what I’m doing now—building an organization from the ground up, fundraising, casting vision, growing a team, developing policy ideas, engaging with media, building real relationships with partners, and more. I wear a different hat every minute some days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was built for this.

Meet The New 1995 Society Member: Nicholas HortonWhat piece of work or accomplishment are you most proud of?

There are a lot that come to mind; publishing more than 50 research studies. Launching my own research firm, which I run on the side. Doing policy work in more than half the country. Working with partners at the White House on welfare reform. But I think starting Opportunity Arkansas and having the immediate success we’ve had takes the cake.

A lot of days, it still doesn’t feel real. Getting 21 policy wins in our first year as an organization, including education freedom? Raising nearly $850,000 in our first year; and winning two national awards? Are you kidding me?

It’s been an unbelievable ride so far. I am doing what I was born to do, where I was sent to do it—and the most exciting part is that we are just getting started.

In your words, what motivates your belief in freedom?

Every single individual on this earth is unique. There are no two of us that are the same. God made us all specifically and intentionally, with our own gifts, talents, interests, and strengths. And at the same time, we live in a fallen world and we are all broken. That includes those who are trying to make decisions for us and dictate our daily lives. So the the idea that someone who doesn’t know us can run our lives better than we can—whether they’re a thousand miles away in D.C. or 30 miles way in Little Rock—is fundamentally wrong. The idea that someone sitting in a capitol building somewhere can possibly account for all of those intricacies and design our lives better than we can, it’s utterly ridiculous.

I often tell people in Arkansas, state government should pave the roads, pay the teachers, arrest the bad guys, and go home. That’s all we need. Arkansans can take care of the rest.

Every time government gets outside its lane and its core functions, things break. We use the expression a lot in Arkansas, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sometimes, I worry government hears that as “If it ain’t broke, we can’t fix it!” So they intervene but end up making it worse—and then they want to be the ones to fix it. It’s far better when they just don’t break it at all.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing America today?Meet The New 1995 Society Member: Nicholas Horton 2

Dependency. Government dependency has been at record highs in recent years, even after the pandemic subsided. We’re saddling future generations with trillions in debt so we can keep able-bodied adults trapped on government welfare programs, robbing them of purpose and opportunity. We’ve got more able-bodied adults on Medicaid than individuals with disabilities and seniors combined now. It’s a crisis that’s hurting people, taxpayers, and small business owners who need help—and it’s going to hit a tipping point.

What is the next big goal or project you’re working on? How can the AF community help?

We’re working overtime right now to educate Arkansans about the dangers of a new proposed constitutional amendment that would create multiple new welfare programs (and make them constitutional rights) and also end education freedom in Arkansas forever. This work will continue over the summer and perhaps into the Fall, depending on whether or not the unions get the required signatures to put it on the November ballot. Any resources or support raising awareness about this disastrous proposal would be wonderful. Folks can visit to learn more.

What advice do you have for those who want to advance liberty and make a difference in our society?

Show up. Go to your state capitol. Call your legislator and let them know you’re paying attention. It’s very easy to get jaded and check out, but especially at the state level, just a few calls and conversations can make a really big difference. And of course the states are so important—perhaps supremely important—in deciding the future of the country.

What are some hobbies/side gigs/secret skills no one knows about?

People who know me the best definitely would know about these things, but I love spending time in my garden and canning vegetables—something I know I inherited from my grandmama and great grandmother. I also love a good treasure hunt at a local flea market or antique store; I’m always looking for new political memorabilia, preferably Arkansas themed. I love fishing, golf, just about anything outdoors. I’ve also been a Kentucky Wildcats basketball fan since birth; both sides of my family had roots there. It’s in my blood. But really spending time with my kids, doing whatever they’re doing is my favorite thing.

Meet The New 1995 Society Member: Nicholas Horton 3What are you watching/reading right now?

This is nerdy, but I just finished the Manhunt miniseries on Apple+, about the hunt for President Lincoln’s killer. Now I’m watching Franklin, another Apple+ series about Benjamin Franklin.

As far as books, I’ve been slowly working my way back through Free to Choose by Milton Friedman.

Last question: What does winning this award mean to you?

It’s a tremendous honor and a total surprise. And honestly, I’m just grateful for any opportunity to highlight the incredible things that are happening in Arkansas. We have an incredible team, amazing supporters, and some great partners all across state government who are ready to finally solve generational problems and bring Arkansas to the top, where we’ve always deserved to be.