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Former White House press secretary will face battle in competitive Republican primary
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
LITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who gained national prominence battling reporters from the White House podium in defense of President Donald Trump, is running for governor of Arkansas.
Watch Sanders’s full announcement video below
“Everything we love about America is at stake, and with the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defense,” Sanders said. “Our state needs a leader with the courage to do what’s right, not what’s politically correct.”
While Sanders will take the Trump brand with her into her run for governor, she faces what is shaping up to be a contentious Republican primary against two current statewide officeholders, Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
Sanders acknowledged the tough primary ahead, saying “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.”
Griffin, in a statement, welcomed Sanders to the race, saying he looked forward “to comparing our experience, track record and vision for the future of Arkansas.” He served as a federal prosecutor and two terms in Congress before being elected as lieutenant governor in 2014.
Rutledge, in a tweet, noted that she has been friends with the Huckabee family “for a long time, and will continue to be after this election.” But she added that the race is “about who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.”
Rutledge is in her second term as attorney general and served as legal counsel to Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Republican incumbent Governor Asa Hutchinson is term-limited in 2022. No Democrats have yet announced for the post.
Sanders served two years as White House press secretary before stepping down to return to Arkansas in 2019. Her tenure was marked by frequent battles with reporters in the Washington press corps, who challenged her truthfulness — which she pointed to as a badge of honor in her announcement video.
“I look on the media, the radical left and their cancel culture, and I won,” Sanders said. “I’ve been tested under fire, successfully managing one crisis after another in one of the most difficult, high-pressure jobs in all of government.”
During the investigation into Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, Sanders admitted to investigators that she lied to reporters in the White House briefing room in 2017 by telling them that she had heard from “countless” members of the FBI who supported Trump’s decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey. She later described the episode as a “slip of the tongue.”
If Sanders wins in 2022, she will return to the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock where she spent her teenage years when her father was governor. She would also be the first woman to serve as Arkansas governor.
Sanders was national political director for Mike Huckabee’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008. She joined Trump’s campaign in 2016 and was named as deputy press secretary, before ascending to the top spot in 2017 when Sean Spicer left after a stormy six months.
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U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin wins Republican primary for lieutenant governor
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
Hutchinson, 63, easily won the GOP nomination on May 20, carrying 72 percent of the vote against Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman. Ross, 52, won a lopsided victory in the Democratic primary over Lynette Bryant, a Little Rock physician, with 85 percent.
Hutchinson served two terms in Congress, representing northwest Arkansas, before being appointed in 2001 as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He has lost three previous races for statewide office, including an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2006.
After the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, last year, Hutchinson signed on as the point man for National Rifle Association’s effort to combat school violence without imposing any new restrictions on firearms.
Ross served 12 years in Congress, representing southern and western Arkansas, before retiring in 2012. In the House, he was a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition and was one of the few Democrats to vote against Obamacare when it came to the floor of the House.
Ross had initially said he would not run for governor, but he jumped into the race when the Democratic front-runner, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, withdrew after admitting to an extra-marital affair with a woman who was later charged with manslaughter.
In the primary races for lieutenant governor, U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin of Little Rock won the Republican nomination over two challengers. He will face Democrat John Burkhalter, a former member of the state highway commission from Little Rock, in November.
Griffin, who announced in October that he was leaving Congress, enters a crowded GOP primary
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
LITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Less than four months after announcing he would leave Congress to spend more time with his family, U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin has entered the lieutenant governor’s race back home in Arkansas.
In interviews with local Little Rock media February 13, Griffin said serving as lieutenant governor would allow him to remain with his young children in Arkansas rather than living in Washington.
The state’s number two spot would also set up Griffin for a potential run for governor in 2018.
Griffin, a former U.S. Attorney and aide to Karl Rove in the Bush White House, won his seat in the Republican landslide in 2010 and easily won re-election in 2012. His decision not to seek a third term in the House – at a time when he had $500,000 in campaign cash on hand — surprised the Arkansas political establishment.
His entry into the lieutenant governor’s race has already shaken up the GOP prmary, with one of the announced candidates, State Rep. Charlie Collins, exiting the race. Still in the running are State Reps. Andy Mayberry and Debra Hobbs.
Hobbs had been running for governor but announced February 12 that she would run for lieutenant governor instead.
On the Democratic side, John Burkhalter, a state highway commissioner, is the only announced candidate and has been endorsed by the likely Democractic candidate for governor, former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross.
The lieutenant governor’s office is currently vacant after Republican Mark Darr resigned rather than face likely impeachment for ethics violations. The state legislature is currently considering a bill to leave the office vacant until after the November election, rather than calling a special election to replace Darr.
Democratic Governer Mike Beebe and state’s Republican congressional delegation all call on Darr to step down for violating ethics rules
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
LITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr is under increasing pressure to resign, after the state ethics commission fined him $11,000 for misusing campaign funds during his 2010 campaign.
Darr, a Republican, accepted that fine on December 30. But in a letter to the commission, he blamed sloppy record-keeping for the violations, insisting that he never “intentionally took money that didn’t belong to me.”
While Darr has not made any public statements since the ethics committee announced its decision, his attorney told local media that he has no plans to step aside.
But a day after the fines were handed down, Democratic Governor Mike Beebe said it would be “in everybody’s interest, including Mr. Darr, if he resigned.”
Perhaps more ominously for Darr, his fellow Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation — U.S. Senator John Boozman and U.S. Reps. Tom Cotton, Tim Griffin, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford — issued a very blunt joint statement calling on Darr to go.
“As elected officials, we are keepers of the public trust. We are bound by a very strict code of conduct that is the basis of that trust,” the statement said. “Based on Lt. Gov. Darr’s own admissions, it is clear he has violated that trust, and he should step down immediately for the good of our state.”
Darr is the second statewide constitutional officer to run into trouble this year. Former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, a Democrat, resigned after she was indicted for allegedly accepting bribes from a state contractor that were delivered in a pie box. Her trial is set for July.
If Darr resigns, a special election would be held to pick his replacement.
Darr, 40, a restaurant owner from Springdale, had never held elective office before winning the lieutenant governorship in 2010. He based his campaign, in part, on opposition to Obamacare.
In its report, the ethics commission said Darr made personal use of more than $31,000 in campaign funds and charged more than $3,500 of personal expenses on a state-issued credit card. He was also cited for receiving improper reimbursement for nearly $3,600 in travel expenses from his home in Springdale to his office in Little Rock.
He was also cited for mistakes in his campaign finance reports.
The ethics complaint against Darr was filed by Democratic blogger Mark Campbell, first reported in his Blue Hog Report.
After the ethics issues surfaced last summer, Darr abandoned his campaign for the 4th District seat in the U.S. House. He has not announced whether he would seek a second term as lieutenant governor.
Griffin’s Little Rock-based district is the least Republican in the Natural State
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics editor
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CFP) — GOP U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s surprise announcement October 21 that he would not seek re-election has given Democrats hope that they might be able to capture his seat after going 0-for-4 in House races in the Natural State in 2012.
Just a day after Griffin stepped aside, former North Little Mayor Pat Hays announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District seat. The popular Hays served six terms as mayor of North Little Rock, the second-largest city in the district, before retiring in 2012.
In a kickoff speech in front of a senior center named for him, Hays, 66, said he was spurred into running for Congress by the recent government shutdown.
“Sixteen days in October was a travesty,” Hays said. “Real people are affected when you have the kind of action those 16 days gave us.”
Other Democrats are considering the race, including former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who dropped out of the 2014 governor’s race this past summer. No Republicans have announced so far.
Griffin, a former U.S. Attorney and aide to Karl Rove in the Bush White House, won his seat in the Republican landslide in 2010 and easily won re-election in 2012. His decision not to seek a third term – at a time when he had $500,000 in campaign cash on hand — surprised the Arkansas political establishment.
In a statement announcing his decision, Griffin said he and his wife “have decided that now is the time for me to focus intently on my top priority, my family, as Elizabeth and I raise our two young children.”
The 2nd District includes eight counties in Central Arkansas, including the state’s largest county, Pulaski, which contains Little Rock. While Mitt Romney carried the district in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote, President Obama carried Pulaski County, giving Democrats hope that they might be competitive in the district.
Until Griffin won the seat in 2010, the 2nd District had been traditionally Democratic. For nearly 40 years, it was the home base of the legendary Wilbur Mills, and from 1997 until 2011, it was held by Vic Snyder.
In 2012, Republicans for the first time carried all four of Arkansas’s congressional seats. With Griffin’s departure, two of those seats are now open. The other is the 4th District, in southern and western Arkansas, which is now held by Rep. Tom Cotton, who is giving up the seat to run for the Senate.