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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Asa Hutchinson is shown in this file photo. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will hold a fundraiser for his re-election campaign Thursday at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, though the Republican governor has yet to formally announce a bid for re-election in 2018.

The cost to attend Thursday's fundraiser from 6-7:30 p.m. is $500 for a guest, $2,700 for a sponsor and $5,400 for a co-host, according to a copy of the invitation that states "Please note, this will be the only event held until after the legislative session."

Contributors are limited to contributing $2,700 for the primary election and $2,700 for the general election under state law.

Jon Gilmore, Hutchinson's political strategist and consultant, who was the manager of Hutchinson's 2014 campaign and served as the governor's deputy chief of staff from January 2015-June 30, 2016, said Monday that "the main audience for the invitation were past donors to the governor.

"I don't know the the total number sent as they were emailed and mailed. It was very inclusive," said Gilmore, who is president of the Gilmore Strategy Group.

Hutchinson's first campaign finance report for his re-election campaign will be filed Jan. 15 with the secretary of state's office and "it will cover the last quarter of 2016, so only partial monies from this upcoming event will be included," Gilmore said.

"We completed the bank paperwork to open the account in late October in preparation to raise money after the [Nov. 8] election," he said. "We had several folks send in contributions that were used to open the account, but we purposely waited until after the elections in November to actively seek contributions. There have been no other events held or scheduled."

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There is no timeline for a formal announcement of Hutchinson's re-election bid, he noted.

No Democrats or Republicans have publicly signaled their interest yet in challenging Hutchinson for governor in the 2018 election. The governor's salary is $141,000 a year.

In the November general election, Republicans increased their ranks in the 100-member House from 64 to 76 and in the 35-member Senate from 24 to 26, after the departure of three House Democrats to the Republican Party.

Hutchinson, 66, of Rogers has served as governor since Jan. 13, 2015. He succeeded Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe of Searcy, who served as the state's chief executive from 2007-2015.

Beebe defeated Hutchinson for governor in 2006. In 1986, Hutchinson unsuccessfully challenged Democratic U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers for his seat. In 1990, Hutchinson lost to Democrat Winston Bryant in a race for attorney general.

Hutchinson is a former federal Homeland Security Department undersecretary, director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. attorney. In the U.S. House, he voted to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998 and served as an impeachment manager, or prosecutor, in the U.S. Senate trial. Senators acquitted Clinton in 1999.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Hutchinson handily defeated founding CEO of Safe Foods Corp. Curtis Coleman of Little Rock by a 72.95 percent to 27.05 percent margin.

In the 2014 general election, he defeated a former Democratic 4th District congressman, Mike Ross of Little Rock, by 55.4 percent to 41.5 percent with Libertarian candidate Frank Gilbert picking up 1.9 percent of the vote and Green Party candidate Joshua Drake garnering 1.1 percent. Hutchinson reported raising $4.4 million and spending $4.1 million in the governor's race. Ross reported raising $6.4 million and spending $6.4 million.

Among other things, Hutchinson campaigned on cutting individual income tax rates for Arkansans with taxable income between $21,000 and $75,000 a year, and the 2015 Legislature enacted his plan that's projected to reduce individual income taxes by about $100 million in the current fiscal year.

He wants the 2017 Legislature to enact a $50-million-a-year income tax cut for Arkansans with less than $21,000 a year in taxable income, and a $13 million a year proposal to exempt military retirement benefits from state income taxes.

In the March 1 primary, Hutchinson endorsed eight Republican legislative candidates and supported them through his political action committee, and six of them won. In the general election, he aided many other Republican legislative candidates through his PAC.

In the GOP primary, Hutchinson, the titular head of the state Republican Party, defended the candidates against what he called "unfair attacks" -- that because they have supported the state's private option form of Medicaid expansion, they also support Obamacare. Seven of the candidates had voted at his request to authorize the use of federal funds to buy private health insurance for low-income Arkansans under the private-option program.

Last month, Hutchinson won federal approval for a waiver for the program that provides health insurance to about 300,000 low-income Arkansans. The program will be called Arkansas Works. The state will begin paying 5 percent of the cost of the program starting this year, and its share will gradually increase to 10 percent by 2020.

In his second term as governor, Hutchinson "wants to continue as the 'jobs governor' and continue sustained economic growth in Arkansas," Gilmore said. "That continues with income tax reform and promoting our state to the nation and world as the best place to do business."

Hutchinson also will look to work with the Trump administration on health care reform, Gilmore added.

"Computer science will remain a large part of his agenda as Arkansas looks to continue leading the nation in computer coding," Gilmore said. " Government efficiency will be a priority as he looks to make government better and improve the operational efficiency."

As for a Democratic challenger for Hutchinson in 2018, Senate Democratic leader Keith Ingram of West Memphis said he's not heard any Democrats talk about that yet.

State Democratic Party spokesman H.L. Moody said he hasn't heard anyone say they are thinking about it yet either.

"I think it will probably be a wait-and-see [thing]," Ingram said Monday. "The people are waiting to see what occurs and what the circumstances are."

Ingram said in October that he won't run for governor in 2018.

"All I am concerned about is representing my district in the best possible manner that I can," he said Monday.

For the 2018 election, both Republican Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin of Little Rock and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Little Rock have announced their bids for re-election. Republican Land Commissioner John Thurston of Little Rock has announced he is running for the secretary of state seat held by term-limited Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin of Prairie Grove.

Both Republican state Auditor Andrea Lea of Russellville and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam of Judsonia have said they're considering running for secretary of state in 2018. Republican Tommy Land of Heber Springs has said he's running for land commissioner.

State Treasurer Dennis Milligan of Benton, a Republican, also has yet to announce a re-election bid in 2018, though he is expected to do so.

A Section on 01/03/2017

Print Headline: Governor fundraiser for term 2

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