Sanders announced her run in a nearly eight-minute-long campaign video posted to her Twitter feed Monday morning, appearing to target disgruntled Trump supporters in her pitch.
“Everything we love about America is at stake. With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defense. In fact, your governor must be on the front line. So today, I announced my candidacy for governor of Arkansas and ask for your prayers and your support,” she said.
Sanders touted her tenure in the Trump administration and listed a few campaign promises throughout the video, including prohibiting sanctuary cities, expanding school choice, lowering income taxes and fighting back against “radical left” environmental policies like the Green New Deal.
“I took on the media, the radical left and their ‘cancel culture,’ and I won. As governor, I will be your voice, and never let them silence you,” Sanders added in the announcement.
Trump officially endorsed Sanders Monday night, saying in a statement that she is a candidate “who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct.”
“She loves our Military and Veterans – and her home state of Arkansas,” Trump said in his first official public endorsement since leaving office. “Sarah will be a GREAT Governor, and she has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
Sanders, a loyalist of Trump’s since leaving the administration, is vying for the position her father, Mike Huckabee, held from 1996 to 2007.
When Sanders succeeded Sean Spicer as White House press secretary in 2017, she was only the third woman to serve in the position and did so for nearly two years — with her tenure marked by a combative relationship with the press.
She frequently spread disinformation to defend the Trump administration and admitted to federal investigators that she had made false statements to the public as press secretary while interviewed by the Mueller Special Counsel investigation, calling it a “‘slip of the tongue,'” the Mueller report said.
Sanders left the White House to return to her home state, Trump announced in June 2019 in a tweet, saying, “I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas – she would be fantastic.” She has since written a book about her tenure. Prior to serving as press secretary, Sanders worked as a senior adviser on Trump’s presidential campaign after managing her father’s failed bid.
She enters a crowded field with Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin — considered by many the GOP establishment candidate — already in the running along with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, both Republicans, who have combined raised more than $2.8 million, according to the Associated Press. Since leaving the White House, she’s laid the groundwork for a run by meeting with GOP groups across the solidly red state.
Current Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is barred by term limits from seeking re-election next year. No Democrats have announced a run for the seat.
With the backing of the former president, Sanders is seen as a leader in the polls — but that backing came before the Jan. 6 siege on Capitol Hill. Now, as the Republican Party is facing a break in leadership with Democrats controlling Congress and Trump facing an impeachment trial in the Senate — the only former president in the position — Sanders’ race will be one of the first indicators of Trump’s staying power in the future of the Republican Party.
According to the Arkansas Times, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and wife, Janet, recently bought a $1.7 million home west of Little Rock, the state’s capital. The family already owned a $249,000 home in Little Rock but said they planned to “consolidate everything” to a new property, according to the Arkansas Times.
Sanders is the youngest child and only daughter of the former Republican governor of Arkansas.
She was born in Hope, Arkansas, the same town as former President Bill Clinton, who also served as a Democratic governor of Arkansas.
ABC News’ Meg Cunningham and Will Steakin contributed to this report.