Who is Republican 2024 candidate Asa Hutchinson?

Asa Hutchinson
FILE – Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson responding during an interview with the Associated Press, Dec. 13, 2022 in Washington. Former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson have all acknowledged they’re each considering a presidential campaign, have been making visits to states that will vote first on the party’s presidential nominee next year, and have had discussions with political operatives about job openings. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Who is Republican 2024 candidate Asa Hutchinson?

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Asa Hutchinson (R) has announced his candidacy for president, but the former Arkansas governor faces an uphill battle against GOP frontrunners former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Hutchinson, 72, represents a niche corner of politics, positioning himself as a traditional conservative alternative to Trump, embracing right-wing social causes while urging a return to the neoconservative foreign policy of the pre-Trump years. He was one of the rare prominent Republicans to condemn Trump for the Jan. 6 riot vehemently and has gained headlines for his steadfast opposition to the former president.

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Hutchinson began his political career in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan appointed him as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, gaining him national prominence as the youngest DA in the country, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. He gained further prominence in 1985 when he investigated and prosecuted the right-wing extremist group called the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. He donned a bulletproof vest and personally negotiated an end to the armed standoff between law enforcement and the group, according to THV 11.

He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1996, then appointed as director of the Drug Enforcement Administration by then-President George Bush. He became Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, before resigning in 2005.

His initial campaign for Arkansas governor in 2006 failed, but his second campaign in 2014 succeeded. In his tenure as governor from 2015-2023, Hutchinson sported a mostly conservative record, instituting tax cuts, enacting an abortion ban that would take hold if Roe v Wade was overruled, pushing back against COVID-19 vaccination requirements, and some restrictions on transgender youth in sports.

However, in 2021, he vetoed a bill that would ban transgender medical procedures on minors, earning him the ire of Trump and many conservatives. He justified his decision by claiming the bill was too restrictive and called for Republicans to overhaul the way they viewed social issues.

“I wanted to say to my Republican friends and colleagues that we’ve got to rethink our engagement in every aspect of the cultural wars. The Republican Party that I grew up with believed in a restrained government that did not jump in the middle of every issue,” he said in an interview with NPR. “And, in this case, it is a very sensitive matter that involves parents and it involves physicians. And we ought to yield to that decision-making, unless there’s a compelling state reason. And I think this is too extreme for me to sign.”

“I listen to experts. I make decisions. And this one was a step way too far, and I couldn’t abide by it,” he continued, referring to the bill that would ban puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy. “Now, there’s coming to my desk other bills as well. And, you know, I think we need to rethink as a party and as a nation. Let’s give some more deference to the medical professionals.”

Hutchinson became increasingly critical of the former president a few months after the end of Trump’s presidency and has accused him of dividing the party. In recent months, he said that Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6 was “disqualifying” and that his winning the Republican nomination in 2024 would be the “worst scenario.”

While Hutchinson’s record is primarily conservative, he has made overtures to centrists in recent months, accepting some views at odds with many conservatives. In a recent speech, he said that the U.S. should welcome refugees because they “love freedom and love America,” Politico reported.

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He has also distinguished himself for arguing for an increased U.S. presence around the world.

Hutchinson announced his candidacy on Sunday after hinting at it for nearly one year but said he would make an official announcement later this month.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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