A former White House press secretary, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, will deliver the Republican response to Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
“She is a servant-leader of true determination and conviction,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said of Sanders in announcing the selection Thursday.
“I’m thrilled Sarah will share her extraordinary story and bold vision for a better America on Tuesday,” McCarthy added. “Everyone, including President Biden, should listen carefully.”
Meanwhile, Democrats chose Rep. Delia Ramirez, a first-term Democrat from Illinois, to rebut Sanders.
Here are four things to know about the former presidential press secretary-turned-Arkansas state chief executive:
1) Who Is Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
Sanders was elected as the first female governor of Arkansas on Nov. 8 and took office on Jan. 10. She is currently the youngest governor in the country at 40 years old.
Sanders served as President Donald Trump’s White House press secretary for nearly two years, from late July 2017 to early July 2019. Sanders published a memoir, “Speaking for Myself,” in 2020.
The mother of three children, Sanders graduated in 2004 from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where she studied political science and mass communications.
Sanders and her father, Mike Huckabee, are the first father-daughter duo to win the same governorship. Huckabee served as Arkansas governor from 1996 to 2007.
“Love the people. Serve them, regardless of whether they voted for her,” Huckabee advised his daughter.
Huckabee ran for president in 2008 and 2016. Sanders served as her father’s campaign manager in 2016. With a background as a Baptist pastor, Huckabee hoped to win the evangelical vote, but dropped out of the 2016 race after a weak showing in the Iowa Republican primary, a state he had won in 2008. He hosts the news-talk show, “Huckabee,” which started on Fox News but which has since moved to the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
2) What’s She Done as Arkansas Governor?
Since taking office, Sanders has signed 15 executive orders, including directives freezing government hiring, reducing government rules and regulations, limiting government overreach and bureaucracy, improving the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance Program, lifting COVID-19 restrictions, and improving education.
Executive Order 5 prohibits the teaching of critical race theory as “indoctrination” opposed to “traditional American values.”
“It emphasizes skin color as a person’s primary characteristic, thereby resurrecting segregationist values, which America has fought so hard to reject,” Sanders said in the order.
Education is her top priority in the 2023 legislative session, she said. An executive order, “Arkansas LEARNS,” called for an expansion of Arkansas charter schools, a review of parental access to public school curriculums, and more financial incentives for high-performing teachers.
Arkansas’ 47th governor also banned the TikTok app on state devices, citing concerns about “significant ties to the Chinese Communist Party.” Another order will eliminate the politically correct term “Latinx” from state documents because “one can no more easily remove gender from Spanish than one can remove vowels and verbs from English,” Sanders said.
3) How Was Her Stint as Trump Press Secretary?
Sanders was the third woman and first mother to hold the position of White House press secretary.
Before stepping down in 2019, Sanders shortened the daily press briefings, which traditionally ran for about an hour, to about 20 minutes, before reducing them to once a month or less.
“I have loved it. I love the president. I love the team I’ve had the opportunity to work for—the most incredible and talented people you could ever imagine. It has been a special experience,” she said after her resignation. “The only one that I can think of that might top it a little bit is that I’m a mom. I have three amazing kids, and I’m going to spend a little more time with them.”
Sanders recently sidestepped a question about whether she would support Trump for president in 2024.
“My focus right now has been on 2022, winning the election in November, preparing through transition and getting ready to take office, as I did this past week,” Sanders said on “Fox News Sunday” on Jan. 15. “I love the president. I have a great relationship with him. I know our country will be infinitely better off if he was in office right now instead of Joe Biden.”
4) Is a Return to White House in Her Future?
Pundits have already begun speculating on Sanders’ political future, but she insists her focus is on the 2022 Arkansas General Assembly legislative session, not on 2024.
“Right now, my focus isn’t 2024. It’s focusing here, in Arkansas, in doing what we can to empower the people of this state, and make sure that I’m delivering on the promises that I laid out over the course of the last two years,” she told Fox News.
Arkansas talk-show host Roby Brock said Sanders would make a strong Republican vice presidential option in 2024.
“On the strength of the fact that she’s got some national brand already from her time in the White House, the fact that she will have accomplished something in the next two years as governor, particularly with the legislative session coming up, and she’s just a well-known commodity and she’s from the South, that may help out,” Brock said.
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