- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

Former Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson says his role in President Clinton’s Senate impeachment trial is a thing of the past and that Arkansas voters should not hold it against him in his bid for governor.

The former Republican congressman and Bush administration official, who hopes to succeed Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, is remembered in the state as one of the House impeachment managers who argued for Mr. Clinton’s removal from office.

When asked whether he thinks his role in the impeachment trial of the former Arkansas governor will be an issue in the election, Mr. Hutchinson said: “I don’t think so. I stood for re-election after that time in our country and was re-elected handily.

“This is not something I campaigned on or focused on. It was a moment in history that’s passed, so I talk about the future of the state.”

Mr. Hutchinson is preparing to plunge full-time into a campaign that he said “is shaping up to be the longest and most expensive gubernatorial race” in the state’s history.

Nevertheless, he said that Mr. Clinton, who was elected five times as governor and carried the state twice as a presidential candidate, has an interest in seeing him defeated and putting a Democrat back in the governor’s office.

State Democratic officials said they intend to remind voters of Mr. Hutchinson’s role in urging the Senate to remove Mr. Clinton from office for lying under oath.

“I know I’m going to remind him of it everywhere I go,” Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Jason Willett told the Associated Press. “This is a thing I think most people in Arkansas still resent.”

Polls show Mr. Hutchinson trailing his likely Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Mike Beebe. Mr. Beebe faces a party primary, and strategists in both parties expect the race to tighten in the coming months.

Mr. Hutchinson said he will run on tax reforms to make the state more competitive economically and hinted of proposing tax cuts to lure businesses to boost economic growth.

“We’ve got to see what our surplus looks like,” he said. “There’s a lot of tax relief that I would like to provide, and I’m constantly measuring our opportunity to do that.”

On other issues, Mr. Hutchinson said, “We need to reduce the fire-breathing rhetoric” in the nation’s capital over whether an Arab-owned company in the United Arab Emirates should be allowed to manage six U.S. ports.

“Legitimate concerns have been raised that we ought to slow down the [review] process. But I think we have to recognize that in this world of international commerce, you need to think very clearly before blocking a sale.” But he said that “security issues should always trump commerce.”

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