Arkansas attorney general drops bid for governor, says she will work with Sanders

Arkansas attorney general drops bid for governor, says she will work with Sanders
© Greg Nash

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) is dropping her bid for governor, and instead will run for lieutenant governor.

In a statement on Tuesday, Rutledge said Sarah HuckabeeSarah SandersHow Biden should sell his infrastructure bill Trump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor MORE Sanders, the former White House press secretary who announced her bid for the governor's mansion in January, will “stand strong against the onslaught of the liberal left’s attack on our home state,” The Associated Press reported. 

“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,” Rutledge continued, according to the AP.

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Little Rock NBC affiliate KARK noted that Rutledge said that she will work with Sanders, her friend of many years, to make “transformational changes” in Arkansas.   

The announcement leaves Sanders unopposed in the GOP primary to replace current Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonGOP governors press Biden administration for control of infrastructure implementation Sarah Huckabee Sanders raises .8M since launch of Arkansas governor campaign Wisconsin GOP bill would count prior COVID-19 infection as immunity MORE (R) in 2022. Hutchinson is ineligible to run again after serving as governor for eight years.

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim GriffinJohn (Tim) Timothy GriffinArkansas attorney general drops bid for governor, says she will work with Sanders Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats Trump faces test of power with early endorsements MORE (R), who is also term-limited in his role, ended his gubernatorial bid in February after Sanders entered the race. He is now running for attorney general.

“I want to thank @LeslieRutledge for her leadership,” Sanders tweeted in response to Rutledge’s announcement. “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.”

“Thank you @SarahHuckabee! Look forward to working with you my friend!” Rutledge said in response.

Sanders was an early favorite to replace Hutchinson and has earned the endorsement of former President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE. Her campaign said in October that she raised over $11 million since January, of which $3.7 million has come from Arkansans.

Her campaign on Wednesday announced that Sens. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Postal Service expansion into banking services misguided Arkansas governor backs Sarah Huckabee Sanders to replace him MORE (R-Ark.) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Senate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform MORE (R-Ark.) had endorsed Sanders's gubernatorial bid.

Meanwhile, Rutledge now enters a crowded field of Republicans seeking to hold the state’s second highest position, KARK noted. Prior to Rutledge’s announcement, six other candidates had reportedly announced their bid for lieutenant governor, including five Republicans and one Democrat.

--Jordain Carney contributed to this report, which was updated at 3:31 p.m.