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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Candidate Sanders visits Mena on Freedom Tour

Ethan Nahté and Trey Youngdahl, contributing reporters

Sarah Huckabee Sanders came to speak at the Ouachita Center on the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain (UARM) campus as a part of her Freedom Tour.

Sanders said the Freedom Tour, “It’s a way to for us to get all over the state of Arkansas, hitting all 75 counties, visiting with people in communities big and small. We’re talking about not just the vision for the state, but frankly, how we are fighting for our freedom, making sure we’re empowering individuals, talking about how we will empower Arkansans, and what I will do as governor.

“So far it has been amazing. The reception has been pretty incredible and very humbling to go into so many places in Arkansas and have people turn out in overflow, packed-out crowds in most of the cafés and diners we have been to. You get to really spend time visiting with people, hear their stories. It’s been another way to fall love with Arkansas again.”

Sanders is one of the two GOP candidates for Arkansas governor. The daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders has spent nearly her whole life involved in politics, serving as campaign manager for U.S. Sen. John Boozman and, most recently, as press secretary for Donald Trump for two-and-half years of his presidency.

Sanders was a teen during her father’s first term as Arkansas’s governor. She grew up around politics. 

She said, “There’s nothing like going on your first date when your dad is the governor. Having your date pick you up at the Governor’s Mansion is not the easiest way to break into that scene. I was right at 14-years-old when my dad became governor. He was there almost 11 years. I was 24 when he left office. I spent a lot of time growing up there and getting to see the impact first-hand that a governor can have.

“I think that a lot of people of people over the past two years, frankly, have been awakened to how much influence their state and local and local leadership has. It’s one of the reasons I’m running, because I think we have the ability to really impact change and transform Arkansas for the better by being in leadership here at the state level.”

Sanders has followed some of her father’s guidance. “My dad has kind of always stuck to one piece of advice and it’s served him well, and has served me pretty well, so far. That is, always be true to yourself. Don’t try to be anything other than God created you to be. He’s always said the He created each of us for a special and unique purpose. Do your very best to live up to whatever that is and everything else should work out pretty well. So far, that has landed me here…getting to run for governor of Arkansas—a true privilege of a lifetime.”

Since announcing her candidacy in January 2021, she has embarked on a tour visiting several small towns and cities in Arkansas to speak to citizens on a more intimate and personal level. Most recently, she made stops in places such as Nashville and De Queen before her stop in Mena on April 13.

Sanders received a standing ovation as she entered the Ouachita Center on the UARM campus. After being introduced by Mena native and State Rep. John Maddox, she spoke to the crowd, sharing her thoughts on American values, her platform, and stories of her time serving Trump.

During her tenure as press secretary, Sanders interacted with many politicians on all levels. In doing so, she once again gained first-hand experience on what she believes makes things work. “I think one of the biggest takeaways, not just from that experience, but from so many other moments, is the fact that Washington is pretty broken. We can’t expect a lot of meaningful things to come out of Washington right now. Our states have the ability to really influence things like education, like workforce development—things that can really change a state, but also change individual lives in the state.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m running for governor. I think education is probably one of the most important things we can focus on. It is the foundation for everything else that we want to see happen in Arkansas, whether its economic development, quality of life, workforce, or healthcare. If we don’t have a good education, all those other things will have difficulty thriving. So, that will be the place where I really want to lean into and aggressively focus on as governor.”

Another focal point of Sanders’ campaign is Arkansas’ state income tax. Eight states, including the bordering states of Tennessee and Texas, do not impose a state income tax. 

Sanders said, “I think one of the best things we can do is to stop taking away the incentive to work harder by having a high-income tax, as part of what we do. I’d love to continue and begin to phase out the state income tax here in Arkansas. We’re not going to be able to do it overnight. It’s going to take time. It’s not going to be any one thing that allows us to do it, but a collection of different things: technology savings, stopping and cutting the exponential growth that we have in government, and passing those savings on to the consumer, the taxpayer. I think it’s important that we really get serious about tightening on our own belts so that we can do exactly that and phase out the state income tax here.”

After addressing the crowd, Sanders did a meet-and-greet for a line of citizens that wrapped all around the auditorium.

“I hope people will take the opportunity to come out and see me and our team on one of our stops, and that I have the chance to earn their vote. I take nothing for granted. I feel like I’m in a great position, but I want people to have the opportunity to meet me, ask me questions if they want, and really earn their respect, earn their vote and work together to change Arkansas. I think we can do that.”

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