Sarah Huckabee Sanders 1st woman elected governor of Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. >> Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elected governor of Arkansas on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to lead the state and the highest-ranking Trump administration official in office. elected.

Sanders beat Democratic nominee Chris Jones in the gubernatorial race in his predominantly Republican home state, where former President Donald Trump remains popular. Sanders had been heavily favored to win the race, which also included Libertarian candidate Ricky Dale Harrington.

Sanders shattered state fundraising records with his campaign, which focused primarily on national issues. Sanders, the daughter of former Governor Mike Huckabee, has regularly vowed to use the office to fight President Joe Biden and the “radical left”.

In her acceptance speech Tuesday night, however, Sanders did not mention either the former or the current president and instead shared stories about the supporters she encountered while on her campaign trail.

“This election is about bringing Arkansas to the top,” Sanders said. “I know Arkansas can be first, and I’m committed to being the leader that gets us there.”

Stan Hall, a retired postal worker, said he voted for Sanders although he wanted her to talk more about state issues rather than criticizing Biden or talking about her time working for Trump.

“I think it’s all about expressing your own feelings about what you’re going to try to do and make things better,” Hall said. “Everyone knows who she was and what she did, so continuing to beat that drum was a little too much for me.”

Sanders succeeds Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who steps down in January due to term limits. Hutchinson, who endorsed Sanders’ candidacy, plans to run for president in 2024 and has frequently parted ways with Trump.

Trump publicly encouraged Sanders to run for governor when she left the White House in 2019 to return to Arkansas.

But Sanders was a known figure in the state long before Trump. She appeared in advertisements for her father and worked on his campaigns. She handled the election of Senator John Boozman in 2010 and worked as an adviser to Senator Tom Cotton in 2014.

Sanders briefly quit the campaign trail in September after undergoing surgery for thyroid cancer. His doctor said Sanders was cancer-free after the operation.

During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure in the White House, she cut back on daily televised briefings after repeatedly getting into fights with reporters who questioned her aggressively. She faced questions about her credibility, particularly after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed that Sanders admitted to making an unfounded claim to reporters about the FBI agents’ reaction to the director’s firing. James Comey. But she has also earned the respect of journalists by working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media.

Sanders embraced Trump’s rhetoric during his gubernatorial bid and embraced many of his favorite targets, including critical race theory and the national news media. But she avoided criticizing Hutchinson, even after the former president called Hutchinson a RINO — Republican in name only — for vetoing an anti-transgender law.

Sanders said she would have signed that measure — a ban on gender-affirming care for minors — into law.

She did not agree with Trump that his defeat in the 2020 presidential election was stolen, although she said the former president had every right to make that claim.

Jones, an ordained Baptist minister and nuclear engineer, had presented himself to voters as a more unifying figure than Sanders. He kicked off his campaign with a video that went viral where he talked about his family’s history in the state. He ran on promises to expand preschool and broadband access.

Speaking to supporters on Tuesday night, Jones did not concede the run.

“We’re going to count every last vote in this race,” Jones said. “Why? Because Arkansas deserves it and Arkansas is worth it.

Kathy Balkman, a retired educator from Little Rock, said she voted for Jones and cited Sanders’ time as a publicist as the reason.

“She was very confrontational, and I don’t see her having the skills to not work in a confrontational way in our state,” said Balkman, a Democrat who said she once voted for the current Republican governor of the state. State.

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