The daughter of one of Arkansas’ longest serving and most popular governors will run for the state’s highest office in 2022.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee and the White House Press Secretary under former President Donald Trump, said Monday (Jan. 25) she will be a candidate for Arkansas governor in 2022.
“Today, I announce my candidacy for governor of Arkansas,” Sanders said in a near 8-minute campaign video announcement, which can be viewed at the end of this post.
She will face at least two previously announced candidates for the Republican nomination in Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
A well-known Republican political operative and public figure, Sanders served the Trump administration in the high-profile press secretary post. Trump carried Arkansas in the 2020 Presidential election with 63% of the vote. She is likely to benefit from a still-viable political machine that her father and mother built over a decade of campaigns and public service in the mid-90’s to mid-2000’s. Her parents, Janet and Mike Huckabee, recently moved back to Arkansas from Florida.
Sanders, 38, has worked at high levels on the campaigns of her father’s Presidential runs as well as the campaigns of Republican U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton. Her husband, Bryan Sanders, has advised U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock.
If elected, Sanders would be the first female governor of Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is term-limited and cannot seek re-election to the office.
“With your support, I hope to be the first woman to lead our state as governor,” she says.
Griffin and Rutledge have amassed solid fundraising numbers in their early candidacies, raising a few million dollars collectively. Sanders’ profile and connections should help her close the fundraising gap quickly. State Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, and former GOP Speaker of the House Davy Carter have also hinted at potential gubernatorial runs. Democrat John Burkhalter has discussed a possible run for governor in 2022, according to sources.
Arkansas has seen a major political shift over the last decade as Republicans hold all statewide and federal offices as well as have supermajorities in both chambers of the Arkansas legislature. Conventional wisdom suggests the winner of the GOP nomination will be a heavy favorite to win the general election.
Sanders and her husband have three children, Scarlett, Huck, and George.
In a press release and video provided on Monday morning, Sanders touts her ties with Trump, who is facing a second impeachment for his role in the riot that overtook the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Offering a “new generation of leadership,” Sanders argues that her conservative credentials are needed to combat “the radical left,” a phrase she mentions several times in the video.
“Your governor is your last line of defense. In fact, your governor must be on the front line,” she said.
She rattles off a litany of perceived threats including cancel culture, socialism, tyranny, gun control, and religious oppression. She touts her time with Trump, retells a story of visiting with troops in Afghanistan at Christmas, expresses the need for law and order, and describes her time in the White House as being “tested under fire.”
As governor, Sanders said she would stand with law enforcement, prohibit sanctuary cities, fight against the Green New Deal, reduce the size and cost of government, lower the state income tax, create jobs, and champion “good schools and teachers,” but offer more school choice. She also emphasizes her faith and role as a mother.
Sanders will face a high level of scrutiny from political rivals and the media. She has given many on-camera interviews over the years that will likely provide ammunition for opponents and require explanations to the press. Former President Trump’s political controversies, and Sanders’ role defending some of them, will be brought up during the campaign.
“My opponents will do everything in their power to destroy me, but I will not apologize for who I am or who I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for you,” she said toward the video’s end.
Lt. Gov. Griffin tells Talk Business & Politics he’s ready to draw contrasts in their candidacies.
“I welcome Sarah Sanders to the race for Governor. I look forward to comparing our experience, track record, and vision for the future of Arkansas,” Griffin said. Rutledge has been asked for comment.
Attorney General Rutledge said her friendship with Sarah and the Huckabee family would survive a competitive primary.
“Sarah and her family have been good friends for a long time and will continue to be after this election. As our great State and Nation face threats to our liberties and freedoms from far-left national leaders, Arkansas must have a leader with a proven record of accomplishments against the liberal left. This race is about Arkansas’s future and who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric in order to deliver the results we need to make Arkansas First in protecting our faith, families and freedoms,” she said. “As the Attorney General, much has been accomplished to defend our values and create economic and educational opportunity for all Arkansans and by working together we can accomplish much more as Governor.”
Michael John Gray, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, offered this response to Sanders’ entry in the race.
“Republican candidates continue their race to the bottom, using fear mongering and hateful rhetoric to try and scare Arkansans. Democrats believe Arkansas deserves better. Arkansas deserves candidates that talk about investing in every community across this state, who understand that arguing about Washington politics doesn’t put food on the table – jobs and economic opportunity do. Candidates need to understand that our children shouldn’t have to leave our state to succeed. Leadership is about bringing people together not seeking to divide us. This is Arkansas. We are better and we deserve better,” he said.
You can watch the full campaign video from Sanders below.