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Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially joins the 2024 presidential race

 Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is the latest Republican to enter the presidential race. Hutchinson made the announcement in Bentonville, Arkansas, which he says is an important part of his life story.
Arkansas PBS
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is the latest Republican to enter the presidential race. Hutchinson made the announcement in Bentonville, Arkansas, which he says is an important part of his life story.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson made an official announcement on Wednesday, April 26 that he is seeking the Republican nomination for president.

“In this campaign for president, I stand alone in terms of my experience, my record and leadership,” Hutchinson said to a crowd of supporters.

Hutchinson made the announcement in Bentonville, Arkansas. He said he decided to make the announcement in Bentonville because it is where he raised his family and opened his first law office. The city is also home to Walmart, which is the world’s largest retailer.

During his speech, Hutchinson highlighted his experience as governor of Arkansas and as congressman for Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District. He said his experience as governor would help him get the nation’s economy back on track.

“I’ve been chief executive for our state for eight years and that means I know how to balance a budget. I did that for our state,” he said.

Hutchinson blamed President Joe Biden’s spending for the current state of the economy.

“To turn around our economy, we have to stop the break-the-bank federal spending that has led to high inflation and rising interest rates. Every hard working family gets a hit from the Biden economy. Their paycheck doesn’t go as far,” he said.

In his speech, Hutchinson did acknowledge both Democratic and Republican administrations have played a role in increasing the federal debt, which sits at about $31 trillion.

In an interview with Stanford News last year, Economist John Taylor said the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates low is a major reason for inflation. Typically, the Federal Reserve has independence from the president. In 2022, Biden re-appointed Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell, who was chairman under former President Donald Trump.

Another part of Hutchinson’s economic agenda would be to increase workforce participation, which has played a role in rising prices. As president, Hutchinson said he would place work requirements on government benefits to create a more productive workforce. Hutchinson also wants to allow older citizens to be a part of the workforce.

“An important solution to this challenge is lifting the penalties for those who want to stay in the workforce after the age of 62. Right now, if you retire on Social Security you are penalized for continuing to work. You should be able to both claim Social Security and work,” he said.

On the issue of Social Security, Hutchinson didn’t get into specifics. He said he would form an independent task force that would be responsible for finding solutions to make Social Security and Medicare sustainable.

Another priority for Hutchinson, who is a former prosecutor, would be crime. He said he is against efforts to defund the police and FBI. He also said he would demand for prosecutors to enforce the law.

Hutchinson, who served as Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security, said he would also focus on enforcing the rule of law at the southern border.

“Our nation is a land of immigrants who make up the fabric of our democracy. In order to respect those who followed the legal path to come to this country, we must reform our asylum laws, devote more resources to support our border patrol, quickly remove those who came here illegally and go after the cartel who are killing Americans with the deadly drug of fentanyl,” he said.

In 2019, Hutchinson signed into law a bill by former Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, that allowed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to get their nursing licenses, according to a press release from the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

As governor, Hutchinson also signed into law a bill that cut off funding for “sanctuary cities” that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities, according to the Associated Press. Hutchinson did push for provisions in the bill that he felt would limit racial profiling but didn't make into the bill.

In addition to his thoughts on domestic policy, Hutchinson made his stance clear on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said he disagrees with “isolationism” and said that creates weakness and can lead to war. As a president, he would continue the support America has given Ukraine.

“Today’s threat is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I join with those who say we don’t need an unending war in Ukraine and the best way to avoid a long war is to help Ukraine win today,” Hutchinson said.

In addition to Hutchinson, former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy and radio host Larry Elder are seeking the Republican nomination. Hutchinson has expressed discontent with the direction of the party as one of his reasons for seeking the nomination.

“I ran as a conservative Republican when being a Republican was like having a career-ending handicap,” Hutchinson said. “And now, I bring that same vigor to fight another battle, and that battle is for the future of our country and the soul of our party.”

After Hutchinson made his announcement, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) characterized him as an extremist.

“After calling Donald Trump ‘the kind of transparent, straight-talking leader America needs,’ Asa Hutchinson now wants to rewrite history – but his support for Trump and the MAGA agenda speaks for itself. As governor, Hutchinson signed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, ripped health care away from thousands of Arkansans, and advocated for taking away the ACA’s protections for those with preexisting conditions. On the heels of endorsing a national abortion ban, Hutchinson is now officially the latest extremist joining the ever-expanding race for the MAGA base,” DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said.

The Republican National Committee hasn’t released a statement on Hutchinson announcing his presidency.

On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday, April 25 that he will seek re-election. Author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will challenge the president in the primary. Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has endorsed Biden.

"President Joe Biden has led our nation through a pandemic, weather disasters, and an economic recession, all while providing our nation’s cities with American Rescue Plan funding to jump start our economies. Amid these storms, he’s been our steady hand. Let’s finish the job," the mayor said on Twitter.

The last Arkansas governor to run for president was Mike Huckabee, during the 2016 presidential election. Huckabee also ran as a Republican. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, he finished in ninth place in the Iowa Caucuses and ended his campaign. The last and only Arkansan to serve as president was former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton who was president from 1993 to 2001.

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Ronak Patel is a political and governmental affairs reporter for KUAR News.