Sarah Huckabee Sanders has never held public office, but the Arkansas native spent two years working as President Donald Trump’s press secretary.
She secured the Republican nomination for governor, a position her father Mike held from 1996 to 2007, and is running against Democrat Chris Jones and Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. in the Nov. 8 general election.
Like his opponents, Sanders has a connection to Pine Bluff. She grew up in the city until she was 5 years old, when her father rose from pastor of the Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff to lead the First Baptist Church on Beech Street in Texarkana.
A graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, Sanders has made education a campaign platform, often referring to it when asked how she would solve specific issues.
All candidates were asked to meet in person with a trade reporter to answer questions before Election Day or, instead of an interview, complete a questionnaire. Sanders chose the latter.
The questions, which highlight the problems in Pine Bluff and southeast Arkansas, and Sanders’ answers are below:
Commercial: Jefferson County is a very different educational landscape than it has been for the past 20 years. For example, children in Altheimer and Wabbaseka now attend school 14 to 18 miles away in the Pine Bluff School District, which last year took over from the former Dollarway School District. The PBSD and Dollarway districts were taken over by the state Department of Education. What is your solution to strengthening school districts, making schools more accessible to rural children, and protecting them from the threat of closure or state takeover?
Sanders: “I believe that every child growing up in Arkansas should have access to a quality education and prosperity – not be trapped in a life of government dependency. Instead of allowing children to check boxes and push them through a failing system, we need to help them develop a set of skills that prepare them to be full members of society. We really need to educate our children, not indoctrinate them. The way we educate our children will determine the future of our state. That’s why I announced Arkansas LEARNS – my bold plan to improve children’s literacy, empower parents, hold schools accountable, prepare students for the job market as we Let’s implement policies to create good, well-paying jobs and prioritize safety so our children are protected in the classroom.
Commercial: How important is it to provide K-12 teachers with a more competitive salary than what they currently receive?
Sanders: “We need to have a new approach to education, not just a one-off approach. It’s extremely important for Arkansas to recruit and retain good, hard-working teachers who want to see our children thrive, that’s why I support increasing teachers’ salaries and using other smart incentives to reward hard-working teachers.”
Commercial: You have a connection to Pine Bluff in some way. It’s the largest city in southeast Arkansas, and the area tends to thrive economically like Pine Bluff does, but that hasn’t happened in a while. How do you envision Pine Bluff becoming a destination city, when we’ve seen cities in northwest Arkansas elevate that area and Osceola and Blytheville start to elevate northeast Arkansas?
Sanders: “Pine Bluff is special to me. It’s the first place I’ve ever called home. As governor, I will work daily to be our state’s chief sales officer. Pine Bluff and communities across the arkansas has so much to offer, but recruiting companies need to start with an improved workforce system so businesses know they can find the skilled workers they need. industry-led and focused on guiding students into well-paying jobs will be a key part of my administration.
Commercial: UAPB and Southeast Arkansas College offer programs to help students get high-skilled, high-paying jobs, but what will you do to help reduce the unemployment rate in Southeast Arkansas and helping those who may have been barred from low-paying jobs (example: those who failed drug tests or were imprisoned for petty crimes) in the recent past reach them and improve their situation at the same time ?
Sanders: “The single most important thing we can do to improve economic growth in Arkansas is to redesign our workforce system and ensure that those who want to work have pathways to success. across the state to get trained and enter the workforce will be a top priority. Additionally, as governor, I will also prioritize making our entire state safer and stronger by reducing violent crime. Making Arkansas one of the best states in the nation to live , work, and raise a family must include making sure families feel safe. And right now, our state has a serious problem with crime. Violent crime is on the rise and deadly illegal drugs are flooding our communities, which is why I will be closing loopholes in our parole system, be an advocate for victims, support our men and women in enforcing the law and never fund the police.”
Commercial: Where do you stand on number 4 on the Arkansas ballot, the question of whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the state?
Sanders: “I see no benefit in legalizing recreational marijuana use in Arkansas. Our country is experiencing a raging drug crisis and marijuana is a gateway drug. Overdoses were the number one cause of deaths in 2021 for 18-45 year olds My focus as governor will be to see how to reduce the drug crisis, not make it worse.
Commercial: The Southeast Arkansas District Fair has been struggling financially since the covid-19 pandemic. Fairs do much to introduce children to agriculture, home economics and other ways of life. How will you help improve the fairs and make them more profitable?
Sanders: “I love Arkansas. It’s what I run for. And one of the things I love about our state is the many fairs and festivals that make our communities unique and special. J grew up attending the Southeast Arkansas District Fair in Pine Bluff, King Biscuit Blues in Helena, the Hope Watermelon Festival, the Arkansas State Fair in Little Rock and the Four States Fair in Texarkana – for n to name a few – and now I take my kids to these same events. In addition to serving as our state’s chief salesman recruiting businesses to create high-paying jobs in Arkansas, I will strive to promote our wonderful fairs and festivals and establish our state as a leader in outdoor recreation, improving access for all Arkansans to world-class hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, cycling and mountain biking.
Commercial: What else would you like to say to voters in Pine Bluff and Southeast Arkansas?
Sanders: “The Arkansans want a fighter who will push back against failed radical left policies coming out of Washington, but also a leader who will defend our freedom and create opportunity for all Arkansans. As governor, I will cut taxes, promote an environment for Arkansas’ businesses to grow, championing great schools while empowering parents, and supporting law enforcement. Together, we’ll take Arkansas to the top and make this state one of the best places to live, work and raise a family.