Arkansas Gov. Sanders endorses Trump for president

Then-President Donald Trump welcomes Sarah Sanders to the stage as he pauses from speaking about second chance hiring to publicly thank the outgoing press secretary in the East Room of the White House, on Thursday June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Then-President Donald Trump welcomes Sarah Sanders to the stage as he pauses from speaking about second chance hiring to publicly thank the outgoing press secretary in the East Room of the White House, on Thursday June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement Monday endorsing former president Donald Trump in his bid to retake the White House.

The first-term Republican governor served as Trump’s press secretary but had held off on endorsing her former boss until Monday evening.

Sanders will speak at Trump event on Wednesday in Hialeah, Fla. The front-runner for the Republican nomination planned the event as a counter program to the Republican National Committee’s sanctioned presidential debate, which is also scheduled for Wednesday night for which he declined to participate in.

NBC News first reported Sanders’ endorsement, citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter.

“It’s not a question between right versus left anymore. It’s normal versus crazy, and President Biden and the left are doubling down on crazy,” Sanders said in a statement released Monday evening. “The time has come to return to the normal policies of the Trump era which created a safer, stronger, and more prosperous America, and that’s why I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for President.”

Elected in 2022 as Arkansas’ first female governor, Sanders came to fame while serving as Trump’s press secretary from 2017-2019 after she replaced Sean Spicer in that role.

Trump endorsed Sanders in her gubernatorial bid, and shortly afterward opponents Leslie Rutledge and Tim Griffin dropped out of the governor’s race. Rutledge went on to be elected lieutenant governor, and Griffin was elected attorney general.

“We had great success in the White House and it’s an honor to have Sarah’s endorsement,” Trump said in a statement Monday evening. “I look forward to having her at the big rally in Hialeah this Wednesday.”

Sanders had previously declined to return the favor of Trump’s endorsement, according to a New York Times story from March. Trump had reportedly asked Sanders for an endorsement but she said at the time she “would not yet do so,” according to the story.

In a post on Truth Social in March, Trump denied the New York Times story, saying “I never asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders for an endorsement. I give endorsements, I don’t generally ask for them. With that being said, nobody has done more for her than I have, with the possible exception of her great father, Mike!”

According to a July news report from Axios, Sanders’ refusal to endorse Trump for president had frustrated the former president.

Sanders’ is not the first person in her family to endorse Trump’s 2024 White House bid. Her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, announced his support for the former Republican president in March.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also seeks the Republican presidential nomination but has struggled to gain traction and has been unable to move past 1% in early national and state polls.

Hutchinson qualified for the first presidential debate in August, but did not make the second debate in September. The Republican National Convention confirmed Monday night that Hutchinson also failed to qualify for Wednesday night’s presidential debate in Miami.

Information for this article was contributed by Alex Thomas of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.