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Rutledge drops out of Arkansas governor's race, will run for lt. governor

2021-10-27-Rutledge-3188-edit.jpg
Michael Hibblen
/
KUAR News
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, seen here speaking at a news conference last month, announced Tuesday she was abandoning her campaign for governor and will instead run for lieutenant governor.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican candidate for governor, announced Tuesday she was dropping out of that race and will now run for lieutenant governor. It comes as she has faced a formidable challenge from former Trump White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“At this crossroads in our country’s history, now is a time for Christian conservative leaders to unite and fight together against those who wish to destroy the America we know and love. Today, I am announcing my campaign for Lt. Governor of Arkansas," Rutledge said in a statement.

"Over the last 7 years as the Attorney General, I have successfully fought Obama and Biden’s overreach, made Arkansas the most pro-life state, defended our Second Amendment rights, kept Critical Race Theory out of our schools, and kept biological boys out of girls’ sports. I have already taken over 60 legal actions against the Biden Administration, including challenging the illegal vaccine mandate. As Lt. Governor, I will stay on the frontlines fighting for Arkansans’ constitutional rights and protecting our conservative values.”

Rutledge is exiting the governor’s race, where she faced long odds to defeat Republican challenger, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders is the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee and was the White House Press Secretary for former President Donald Trump.

“Sarah Sanders has been a friend for many years, and I know that as Governor she will stand strong against the onslaught of the liberal Left’s attack on our home state. As the Lt. Governor, I will work alongside Sarah as Governor to make transformational changes in Arkansas to protect our rights and ensure top notch educational opportunities, lower taxes, and job creation. I am a hardworking, Christian, pro-life, gun-carrying conservative momma and wife to a farmer, and I will never stop fighting for the future of Arkansas,” Rutledge added. “Cover your ears, Arkansas there is going to be more glass ceilings shattered next November!”

Sanders issued a statement praising Rutledge after making her announcement.

“I want to thank Leslie Rutledge for her leadership. I look forward to uniting Arkansans behind my vision to grow our economy and create high-paying jobs, increase access to quality education, and deliver bold, conservative reforms that take our state to the top,” Sanders said.

Sanders announced her candidacy in January, but only began campaigning in September with a 15-stop tour that was launched in Benton.

Rutledge enters an already crowded field in the race for lieutenant governor. Five other Republicans have announced their candidacies. They include state Sen. Jason Rapert of Bigelow, former Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb, Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe, Washington County Judge Joseph Wood and attorney Chris Bequette. Kelly Krout is the only announced Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Webb offered a congratulatory note to Sanders and took a shot at Rutledge.

“I first want to congratulate Arkansas’ next Governor: Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I have no doubt she will be a fighter against an overreaching federal government and the best Governor in the Nation. Let the fact remain, I am the only candidate seeking the actual office of Lieutenant Governor. I am not using that office to run for another office eight years from now, and am not jumping out of this race," Webb said.

“As someone who has offered the Attorney General much advice and friendship, I am severely disappointed with her decision to switch to this race; an office she does not respect. ‘I’d be bored with a part-time job and a staff of two,’ she told the Democrat-Gazette earlier this year about the Lieutenant Governor’s office. I have too much respect for that office and my state to let someone hold that seat because they failed in another race,” Webb continued.

Rapert also offered congratulations to Sanders and rebuked Rutledge for entering the race.

“Arkansas needs a Lt. Governor who will be a strong right arm for our next Governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. That cannot happen with a candidate who has continually attacked our likely nominee by questioning her leadership and ability at every turn,” Rapert said on Twitter. “I’m proud to support & endorse @SarahHuckabee to be our next Governor. I look forward to bringing my knowledge of the legislative process and my success representing the people of Arkansas help make the next Republican administration to the strongest in our state’s history. I was the very first candidate to announce for Arkansas Lt. Governor – I have never wavered and I am in this race to win it. We have led this race in fundraising and we invite all Arkansans to join with us today.”

Bequette said, “When Leslie Rutledge says she’s going to fight for you she really isn’t, she just raised the flag of surrender in the Governor’s race. I picked the Lieutenant Governor’s race because I can do the most good, I will not surrender and I will not betray Arkansans.”

This story has been updated.

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.