At the debate, Sarah Sanders defends avoiding the Arkansas press

CONWAY, Arkansas >> Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended her avoidance of local media in her bid for Arkansas governor on Friday as she appeared in her only debate ahead of the month’s election next.

Sanders, the Republican candidate who is heavily favored in the November election, conducted a few local interviews during her bid for the state’s highest office. Sanders had accepted only one debate with Democratic candidate Chris Jones and Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington.

Sanders said she was speaking directly to voters while campaigning across the state.

“Freedom of the press is extremely important, but with freedom of the press comes great responsibility,” Sanders said. “When they don’t live up to their end of the bargain, it forces some of us to think outside the box, which I’ve done every day for the past two years.”

Public polls showed Sanders leading by double digits and she shattered fundraising records in the predominantly Republican state. Early voting begins Monday in Arkansas.

During her two-year tenure as former President Donald Trump’s chief spokesperson, Sanders cut back on televised press briefings after repeatedly getting into fights with reporters who questioned her in ways agressive. Sanders often sought to justify the lack of formal briefings by saying they were unnecessary when reporters could hear directly from Trump.

Jones, an ordained Baptist minister and nuclear engineer, said voters deserved to know more about Sanders.

“The more leaders we have who don’t want to come forward and answer the tough questions in front of crowds that don’t agree with them and media that disagree with them, the further we’ll get away from force. of our democracy,” Jones said.

Sanders’ comments come a day after incumbent Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who held more than 200 press briefings during the COVID-19 pandemic, praised the role of the press. Hutchinson, who endorsed Sanders, leaves office in January due to term limits.

“While it’s difficult for those in public office, your work is essential,” Hutchinson said Thursday night at the Arkansas Press Association’s Freedom of the Press Gala. “And that’s an incredibly important part of the checks and balances that we have in our society and in our freedoms.”

The hour-long debate hosted by Arkansas PBS did not include issues that have dominated other campaigns nationwide, including abortion access and the Capitol Riot.

Sanders, who has vowed to use the office to fight President Joe Biden’s policies, has repeatedly invoked an education plan she recently released that calls for improving literacy rates. She also said she thinks the state can afford its income tax phase-out plan. Sanders did not release a detailed timeline for the tax cut plan.

“We have to do it responsibly, but we do it by growing our own economy and reducing the waste, fraud and abuse that exists in our government spending as it is now,” she said. declared.

During the debate, Jones touted his “PB&J” platform, which he says stands for early education, broadband and jobs. Jones expressed concern about the impact the income tax abolition could have on state services.

“The calculations have to add up,” he said. “You can’t eliminate 55% of state revenue and then not cut something.”

Sanders also said she would have enacted the state ban on gender-affirming care for minors, a ban that is the subject of a federal lawsuit this week. The Republican Legislature enacted the ban last year, overriding Hutchinson’s veto.

“Children are not capable of making such life-changing decisions,” Sanders said, likening the ban to the minimum age for driving, drinking or smoking licenses.

Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban. Several medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the bans and experts say the treatments are safe if administered correctly.

Jones and Harrington said they both oppose the ban and that parents should have the right to make that decision.

“Are my children my children or do they belong to the government? Harington said.

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