Almost immediately after taking office from Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, a Democrat who resigned after federal fraud and corruption convictions, Mr. Huckabee campaigned for his first tax increase — one-eighth cent on the sales tax to dedicate to conservation projects. He followed up with both budget cuts and increases, but the net effect was nearly $500 million in new taxes and an accompanying rise in spending.
What followed were clashes over the growth of government and, as the issue heated up nationally, over immigration policy. Republicans and conservative Democrats wanted a crackdown on illegal aliens, but Mr. Huckabee resisted.
The war of words was just as harsh. In 1998, when he faced a primary challenger who said Mr. Huckabee lacked certain conservative principles, the governor replied that his opponents weren’t really Republicans, but rather libertarians or independents.
By the end of his tenure, Mr. Huckabee was calling his Republican opponents the “Shi’ites” and they called him a “Christian socialist.”
Mr. Huckabee’s defenders said the governor was simply firing back at frustrated Republicans who were waging a battle against him.
“He raised a lot of money regularly; he campaigned tirelessly for GOP candidates up and down the ballot; he gave from [his political action committee] to GOP candidates,” Mr. Harris said, adding that Mr. Huckabee appointed years’ worth of Republicans to boards and commissions.
“This created a strong network of individuals who will run for office in the future under the Republican banner,” he said.
Arkansas Republicans, though, said Mr. Huckabee was building an organization for himself, not a farm team for the party. He left many appointments of former Govs. Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker in office, including some department heads who stayed through Mr. Huckabee’s tenure.
They said no Republicans hold any of the statewide constitutional offices, and the state party chairman told the Associated Press last week that he doesn’t expect to field a candidate this year to run against Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat.
“In the 10 years where the governor was the title head of the party, we actually took steps backwards,” Mr. Files said, noting that Republicans were advancing in other Southern states. “The overall morale of the party did not take any of those same stages it did in the other states. It started plateauing and took a dive.”
On the campaign trail
Records kept with the secretary of state in Little Rock show that CLAPAC spent only a third of its money on candidates between 2001 and 2006, with the rest going to consulting, accounting and, in later years, travel and fundraising for Mr. Huckabee.
Mr. Huckabee gave contributions as well during those years to at least three Democrats. Given that $5,000 of CLAPAC’s money came in a 2003 donation from the state Republican Party, that means some Republican money was used indirectly to aid the party’s own opponents.View Entire Story
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