WASHINGTON: Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, backed by her former boss Donald Trump, announced on Monday she will 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 Sanders' campaign will amount to a test of the pull Trump still has within the Republican party after the tumultuous end of his presidency.
In a video released on social media announcing her decision, Sanders, 38, 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, who was impeached last month shortly before he left office, making him the only U.S. president ever to be impeached twice.
"Sarah will be a GREAT Governor, and she has my Complete and Total Endorsement!" Trump said in a statement issued through Save America PAC, the political action committee he is using to advance candidates dedicated to his agenda.
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 also 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 potentially crowded race that could test the former president's hold on the Republican Party as it regroups.
Arkansas' lieutenant governor, Tim Griffin, has said he will seek the Republican nomination in the gubernatorial 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 served as Trump's second press secretary after Sean Spicer. She left the job in 2019 to return home to Arkansas, where her father, Mike Huckabee, also served as governor from 1996 to 2007.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Paul Simao and Leslie Adler) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +1 202 843 6600;))