Sarah Huckabee Sanders is Arkansas’s first woman governor : Republican3 min read
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elected governor of Arkansas on Tuesday, becoming the state’s first female governor and the highest-profile Trump administration official in political office.
Sanders defeated Democratic nominee Chris Jones in the governor’s election in her mainly Republican home state, where former President Donald Trump still enjoys popularity. Sanders was widely expected to win the campaign, which also included Libertarian nominee Ricky Dale Harrington.
Sanders’ campaign, which focused mostly on national concerns, broke state funding records. Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has repeatedly threatened to use her position to oppose President Joe Biden and the “radical left.”
Sanders, 40, becomes the state’s first female governor and succeeds outgoing term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Her inauguration is scheduled for January, 16 years after her father, Mike Huckabee, departed office after a 10-year tenure as governor.
Despite a recent cancer diagnosis and a strong campaign from Democratic nominee Chris Jones, Sanders’ win was all but certain. Sanders was chastised during her campaign for not focusing on Arkansas-specific concerns and for restricting press access in favour of highly planned rallies and appearances.
Jones, a Baptist preacher and MIT-educated scientist, chastised Sanders in their single debate two weeks before Election Day for her apparent lack of transparency and clear policy goals.
“The more we have politicians who are unwilling to turn up and answer the tough issues in front of opposing crowds and opposing media, the more we will deviate from the strength of our democracy,” Jones added.
Sanders, in her victory speech on Tuesday night, did not address either the previous or current president, instead sharing tales about supporters she encountered during her campaign.
“This election is about propelling Arkansas to the top,” Sanders declared. “I feel Arkansas has the potential to be first, and I’m committed to being the leader who gets us there.”
Stan Hall, a retired postal worker, said he supported Sanders but wished she would focus more on state issues rather than criticising Biden or extolling her time working for Trump.
“I think you should just state your own feelings about what you’re going to attempt to do to change things,” Hall advised. “Everyone knew who she was and what she did, so continuing to beat that drum was a little too much for me.”
Sanders will succeed Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who will step down in January due to term restrictions. Hutchinson, who supported Sanders’ campaign, is exploring a run for president in 2024 and has regularly disagreed with Trump.
Sanders scaled back daily televised briefings during her nearly two-year stint at the White House after repeatedly fighting with reporters who questioned her aggressively. She was called out on her reliability, especially after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed that Sanders admitted to making an incorrect allegation to media about FBI agents’ reactions to director James Comey’s removal. But she also earned the respect of reporters by working behind the scenes to build ties with the media.
During her campaign for governor, Sanders embraced Trump’s rhetoric and adopted many of his favourite targets, including critical race theory and the national news media. But she has refrained from condemning Hutchinson, even after the former president called her a RINO — Republican In Name Only — for vetoing an anti-transgender bill.
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