Sarah Sanders, who served as one of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House press secretaries, on Monday announced she would seek the Republican Party’s nomination for governor of Arkansas in the 2022 election.
It is rare for a former White House press secretary to launch into a political career, and her campaign will amount to a test of the pull Trump still has within the party after the tumultuous end of his presidency.
In a video released on social media announcing her decision, Sanders tied herself closely to Trump and his agenda, using flag-waving video of him and herself on a presidential trip to Iraq.
Trump won Arkansas with 62% of the vote in the Nov. 3 election, an indication that Sanders is in safe territory aligning herself with the former president.
Trump representatives did not respond to a question about whether the former president would endorse Sanders. Trump, however, had urged Sanders to run for governor in her home state when she left her White House job in 2019.
In her video, Sanders echoed much of Trump’s rhetoric, vowing “law and order,” and positioning herself as a bulwark against “the radical left,” “socialism” and “cancel culture.”
“My opponents will do everything in their power to destroy me, but I will not apologize for who I am, for who I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for you. I will not retreat, I will not surrender and I will not bow down to the radical left,” she said.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threw his support behind Sanders’ bid. “Take it from a Kansan – she will do Arkansas a good turn,” tweeted Pompeo, who is a possible contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Sanders, who backed Trump’s failed bid for re-election in November, faces a potential crowded race that could test the former president’s hold on the Republican Party as it regroups.
Arkansas’s Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin has said he will also seek the Republican nomination in the race, which could also include state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Arkansas Senate President Jim Hendren, according to local media reports.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in the deeply conservative southern U.S. state.
Sanders, 38, served as Trump’s second press secretary after Sean Spicer. She left the job to return home to Arkansas, where her father Mike Huckabee also served as governor from 1996 to 2007.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Steve Holland; Editing by Paul Simao)