Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a rising star in the Republican Party and the youngest governor in the nation at age 40, will deliver the Republicans’ response Tuesday to the State of the Union address by the country’s oldest president, 80-year-old Joseph R. Biden.
Mrs. Sanders is promising a forceful takedown of the president’s first two years in office, including his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and lax security at the U.S. border with Mexico.
“It’s hard to find a single thing that the Biden administration has done that has been positive,” Mrs. Sanders said Monday in a video released by the Republican Governors Association. “I am looking forward to rising to the moment, to doing great things for our state, and joining in a coalition of strong, conservative governors across the country.”
Mrs. Sanders, inaugurated a month ago, said she will talk about a new generation of Republicans restoring commonsense leadership on issues such as parental rights in schools and pandemic lockdowns.
“We are ready to begin a new chapter in the story of America — to be written by a new generation of leaders ready to defend our freedom against the radical left and expand access to quality education, jobs and opportunity for all,” she said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said in a Twitter post that Mrs. Sanders “is a champion for conservative values who will contrast sharply with President Biden’s divisive, weak leadership.”
Rep. Mary Miller, Arkansas Republican, tweeted, “Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a pro-life champion and a fighter against the woke indoctrination of children in the classroom. A fantastic messenger for the American people and PARENTAL RIGHTS!”
Her address also is expected to hammer Mr. Biden on Americans’ economic anxieties over high inflation and shortages during the past two years, notwithstanding the strong jobs report for January. She criticized Mr. Biden last week for failing to act more swiftly against China’s spy balloon that floated across the entire U.S. before it was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.
Last year, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered the Republican response to Mr. Biden’s State of the Union speech.
Mrs. Sanders is a familiar face to many Americans, and she has experience with the pressures of live nationwide TV. She served two years as press secretary for President Trump, who predicted when she left the White House in 2019 that she would win the governor’s office.
She is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former first lady Janet Huckabee.
Since becoming the state’s first female governor, Mrs. Sanders has embarked on a flurry of executive actions to set a new tone in Little Rock and staked her claim as a front-line culture warrior. On her first day in office, she prohibited the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
“Teachers and school administrators should teach students how to think — not what to think,” the governor decreed. “Critical Race Theory (CRT) is antithetical to the traditional American values of neutrality, equality, and fairness. It emphasizes skin color as a person’s primary characteristic, thereby resurrecting segregationist values, which America has fought so hard to reject.”
Since January 2021, 42 states have taken steps to ban critical race theory or “divisive concepts” from the classroom or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an Education Week analysis. Republican Govs. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and Kristi Noem of South Dakota previously ordered their state education departments to review policies and teaching materials for “divisive concepts.”
Another of Mrs. Sanders’ executive orders banned the use of the term “Latinx” in state publications. The term is favored by just 3% of Hispanics in the U.S., according to a 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center.
Mrs. Sanders also repealed a series of executive orders on COVID-19 that were issued by her predecessor, Republican Asa Hutchinson, rescinding various state committees and task forces dedicated to pandemic response. In her order, Mrs. Sanders cited Mr. Biden as her justification for winding down the state’s pandemic posture.
“In an appearance on CBS’ ‘60 Minutes’ on September 18, 2022, President Joe Biden said the ‘pandemic is over,’” her order stated.
The governor also is seeking to cut regulations and reduce Arkansas’ income tax. She noted that neighboring Texas and Tennessee don’t have state income taxes.
Mrs. Sanders appointed her husband, Bryan, to head an initiative (for no compensation) to promote the state’s recreational opportunities. The couple have three school-age children: Scarlett, Huck and George.