Donald Trump’s former press secretary Sarah Sanders has announced her own political ambitions.
The former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, launched a bid to become the governor of Arkansas less than a week after the end of Trump’s time in office and as the ex-president faces an impeachment trial.
But her announcement reflected how much she expected voters in solidly red Arkansas to embrace the former president, if not his rhetoric.
“With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Ms Sanders said in a video announcing her bid.
“In fact, your governor must be on the front line. So today I announce my candidacy for governor of Arkansas.”
The daughter of former Governor Mike Huckabee, Ms Sanders had been widely expected to run for the office after leaving the White House — and Trump publicly encouraged her to make a go.
She’s been laying the groundwork for a candidacy, speaking to GOP groups around the state.
Ms Sanders joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
The three are running to succeed current Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat.
Ms Sanders launched her bid weeks after a riot by Trump’s supporters at the US Capitol left five people dead. More than 130 people have been charged in the insurrection, which was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s win over Trump.
She was the first working mother and only the third woman to serve as White House press secretary. But she also faced questions about her credibility during her time as Trump’s chief spokesperson.
During her nearly two-year tenure, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Ms Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her about administration policy and the investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
But Ms Sanders earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media.
Trump’s tumultuous exit from the presidency may do little damage to Ms Sanders in Arkansas.
Republicans hold all of Arkansas’ statewide and federal seats, as well as a solid majority in both chambers of the Legislature.
Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. Ms Sanders’ nearly eight-minute video prominently features photos of Trump, along with references to his favourite targets such as “cancel culture,” socialism and the Green New Deal.
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