- The Washington Times - Monday, January 25, 2021

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Monday she is running for governor of Arkansas in 2022, shaking up the race and giving voters the chance to weigh in on whether they want one of former President Donald Trump’s most loyal defenders leading the state.

Mrs. Sanders, the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, made the long-anticipated announcement on social media, calling for a return to law and order and for solving problems peacefully.

“The radical left’s solution is to impose government control and censorship from the top down, but their socialism and cancel culture will not heal America — it will only further divide and destroy us,” Mrs. Sanders said in a 7-plus-minute video. “Everything we love about America is at stake, and with the radical left in control of Washington your government is the last line of defense.

“In fact, your governor must be on the front line,” Mrs. Sanders said. “So today I announce my candidacy for governor of Arkansas and ask for your prayers and your support.”

Mrs. Sanders enters a Republican nomination race that includes Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

Whoever wins the contest is expected to become the successor to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who cannot run again because of term limits.

Mrs. Sanders’ reemergence is another reminder that Mr. Trump’s shadow will continue to loom large in Republican Party politics.

There have been signs of that trend in Arizona, where the state GOP over the weekend passed resolutions censuring three high-profile Republicans who refused to go all-in with Mr. Trump: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain, who represented the state for more than three decades in Congress. 

Mrs. Sanders served as Mr. Trump’s press secretary from 2017 to 2019 and earned a reputation for being a no-nonsense defender of the president. She frequently clashed with journalists, accusing them of reporting “fake news.”

She touted those battles in her announcement video, while also vowing to keep people “free from socialism and tyranny” and to protect their Second Amendment rights and their “freedom of speech and religious liberty.”

“Our state needs a leader with the courage to do what’s right, not what’s politically correct or convention,” she said. “I took on the media, the radical left and their cancel culture and I won.”

The Arkansas Democratic Party said Mrs. Sanders’ announcement is part of the GOP’s “race to the bottom, using fear mongering and hateful rhetoric to try and scare Arkansans.” 

“Democrats believe Arkansas deserves better,” said Michael John Gray, chairman of the Arkansas Democrats. “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.”

Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist, said the GOP has a strong field of gubernatorial contenders with each having different strengths.

For Mrs. Sanders, that includes her association with Mr. Trump.

Donald Trump won Arkansas by 62% of the vote in 2020,” Mrs. Stewart said. “It doesn’t take rocket science that touting your Trump ties isn’t a bad idea in the Republican Party primary in Arkansas.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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