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Asa Hutchinson
Asa Hutchinson by Gage Skidmore.jpg
46th Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 13, 2015 – January 10, 2023
Lieutenant Tim Griffin
Preceded by Mike Beebe
Succeeded by Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
July 8, 2021 – July 15, 2022
Vice Chair Phil Murphy
Preceded by Andrew Cuomo
Succeeded by Phil Murphy
Vice Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
August 5, 2020 – July 8, 2021
Chair Andrew Cuomo
Preceded by Andrew Cuomo
Succeeded by Phil Murphy
Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Border and Transportation Security
In office
January 23, 2003 – March 1, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Randy Beardsworth (acting)
8th Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration
In office
August 8, 2001 – January 23, 2003
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Donnie R. Marshall
Succeeded by Karen Tandy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1997 – August 6, 2001
Preceded by Tim Hutchinson
Succeeded by John Boozman
Chair of the Arkansas Republican Party
In office
January 1, 1991 – December 31, 1995
Serving with Sheffield Nelson (1991–1992)
Preceded by Ken Coon
Succeeded by Lloyd Stone
United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas
In office
September 1, 1982 – January 20, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Larry McCord
Succeeded by Michael Fitzhugh
Personal details
William Asa Hutchinson II

(1950-12-03) December 3, 1950 (age 73)
Bentonville, Arkansas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Susan Burrell
(m. 1973)
Children 4
Relatives Tim Hutchinson (brother)
Education Bob Jones University (BA)
University of Arkansas (JD)

William Asa Hutchinson II ( AY-sə; born December 3, 1950) is an American attorney, businessman, and politician who served as the 46th governor of Arkansas from 2015 to 2023. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as a U.S. attorney, U.S. representative, and in two roles in the George W. Bush administration.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Hutchinson to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, which covers most of Fort Smith. In 1986, Hutchinson unsuccessfully challenged Democratic U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers, before losing a race for Attorney General of Arkansas to Winston Bryant four years later. He later successfully ran for the House of Representatives in 1996, representing Arkansas's 3rd congressional district until 2001, when president George W. Bush successfully nominated him as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 2003, Bush appointed Hutchinson as the Under Secretary for border and transportation security at the newly established Department of Homeland Security; Hutchinson retired from the Bush administration in 2005.

In 2006, Hutchinson was the Republican nominee for governor of Arkansas, but lost to Democratic nominee Mike Beebe, the state attorney general. In 2014, Hutchinson was again the Republican nominee for governor, this time defeating the Democratic nominee, U.S. Representative Mike Ross. He was reelected in 2018 with nearly two-thirds of the vote. Due to term limits, he was barred from seeking reelection in 2022, and was succeeded by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

From 2020 to 2021, Hutchinson served as vice chair of the National Governors Association. He succeeded Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York as chair of the organization for 2021–2022.

In 2023 he announced his candidacy in the 2024 Republican Party presidential primaries. He suspended his campaign on January 16, 2024 after a poor performance in the Iowa caucuses.

Early life and legal career

Hutchinson was born in Bentonville, Arkansas, the son of Coral Virginia (Mount) Hutchinson (1912–1998) and John Malcolm Hutchinson Sr. (1907–1991). He earned his bachelor's degree in accounting from Bob Jones University in South Carolina in 1972 and received his J.D. from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1975. He practiced law in Fort Smith for 21 years and handled more than 100 jury trials.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Hutchinson U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. At age 31, Hutchinson was the nation's youngest U.S. attorney. He made national headlines after successfully prosecuting The Covenant, The Sword, and The Arm of the Lord (CSA), a white supremacist organization founded by polygamist James Ellison. The CSA forced a three-day armed standoff with local, state, and federal law enforcement. As U.S. attorney, Hutchinson personally negotiated a peaceful conclusion to the standoff.

Early political career

Pre-Congress efforts

In 1986, Hutchinson ran against incumbent Democratic U.S. senator and former governor Dale Bumpers. It was a good year for Democrats, and Hutchinson fared worse than Bumpers's previous Senate challenger, Little Rock investment banker William P. "Bill" Clark.

In 1990, Hutchinson ran against Winston Bryant for attorney general of Arkansas; he lost the race by a margin of 55–45%. Hutchinson then became co-chair, with Sheffield Nelson, of the Arkansas Republican Party, a position he held from 1991 through 1995, the last four years as full chair. He considered a rematch with Bumpers in 1992 before deferring to Mike Huckabee, who lost to Bumpers.

U.S. House of Representatives

Asa Hutchinson's 105th Congress portrait
Campaign finance 63190u (cropped)
Hutchinson during a press conference on campaign finance reform in 1998

In 1992 Hutchinson's brother, Tim, was elected to Congress in Arkansas's third congressional district, when veteran U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt retired. In 1996, when his brother decided not to run for a third term in the House in order to seek the open Senate seat caused by the retirement of David Pryor, Hutchinson ran for the seat and won.

In 1998, Hutchinson was reelected to the House with far less difficulty, taking 81% of the vote against a third party challenger. He was reelected unopposed in 2000.

Hutchinson served as a house manager (prosecutor) in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton.

In office, Hutchinson compiled a voting record as conservative as his brother's. He served as one of the managers of the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1998. In 1999, Hutchinson was involved in the effort to reform campaign finance laws and offered an alternative proposal to the bill by Christopher Shays and Marty Meehan, which he opposed on the grounds that it "went too far" by attempting to ban television commercials by legal third-party organizations. Hutchinson did support John McCain's and Russ Feingold's Senate bill.

Drug Enforcement Administration

Hutchinson as Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security
Frank Wolf and Asa Hutchinson tour a DEA drug testing facility in Northern Virginia
Hutchinson and U.S. Representative Frank Wolf in Northern Virginia in 2001

In 2001, at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration, Hutchinson was appointed Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He was confirmed by a 98–1 Senate vote.

Department of Homeland Security

After the September 11 attacks, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). President Bush tapped Hutchinson to lead the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, a division of the DHS. The Senate confirmed Hutchinson by unanimous consent on January 23, 2003. Hutchinson left office as Undersecretary on March 1, 2005.

Post-Bush administration

Business career

In early 2005, Hutchinson founded a consulting firm, Hutchinson Group, LLC, with partners Betty Guhman and Kirk Tompkins, in Little Rock, and accepted a contract for a one-year position with Venable LLP in Washington, D.C., as the chair of its Homeland Security practice. Hutchinson ended his contract with Venable LLP in March 2006 to focus on his gubernatorial campaign and his consulting firm in Little Rock. In January 2007, Hutchinson rejoined Venable.

In June 2006, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Hutchinson's $2,800 investment in Fortress America Acquisition Corporation, a company that Hutchinson was advising, was worth over $1 million after the company's initial public offering. The news story noted that Hutchinson was unable to touch his stock for another two years. The six founding shareholders in Fortress America, in addition to Hutchinson, included former U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, former U.S. Senator Don Nickles, and a private-equity firm that had former CIA Director James Woolsey among its partners.

On May 4, 2006, Hutchinson had filed a financial disclosure form he was required to submit as a candidate for governor. The form did not list his 200,000 shares in Fortress America, which were trading at about $5 per share. "Just totally an oversight", Hutchinson said when questioned by the media in June. He filed an amended report the next day to correct the error.

Political activities

Hutchinson agreed to serve on The Constitution Project's Guantanamo Task Force in December 2010. He told the Associated Press he agreed to join the task force because he believed it was "something important for our national security and our war on terrorism."

Governor of Arkansas

20170507-OSEC-MMR-ARKANSAS-0326 (34404669951)
Hutchinson greeting Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in 2017

Hutchinson took office as governor on January 13, 2015.

President Trump Meets with the Governor of Arkansas and the Governor of Kansas (49920449731)
Hutchinson meeting with President Donald Trump and Laura Kelly in 2020
President Joe Biden meets with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors
Hutchinson meeting with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and a bipartisan group of governors and mayors in 2021

On November 16, 2015, Hutchinson said that he would block all Syrian refugees from entering the state in response to the November 2015 Paris attacks.

Under Hutchinson, Arkansas resumed executions in 2017 after having executed no one since 2005.

As governor, Hutchinson implemented work requirements for Medicaid enrollees. As a result, by December 2018, almost 17,000 Arkansans had lost their Medicaid health insurance, with reapplication available in the new calendar year.

In 2015, Hutchinson signed into law legislation that would prohibit localities from extending civil rights protections to LGBT individuals. At the time, Arkansas was among states that allowed discrimination in the workplace, housing and business on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. In March 2021, Hutchinson signed into law legislation that would allow doctors to refuse non-emergency medical treatment to LGBT people based on moral objection. In April 2021, he vetoed a bill that would make it illegal for transgender minors to receive gender-affirming medication or surgery, calling it "a vast government overreach". The state legislature later overrode his veto.

In August 2021, Hutchinson signed bills into law that prohibited businesses and government facilities from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for staff and customers to enter facilities. While Arkansas was experiencing a wave of COVID-19 cases, he also signed a bill into law that prohibited state and local officials from enacting mask mandates. He later said he regretted doing so. In December 2021, Hutchinson praised President Joe Biden's COVID policies and thanked Biden for his efforts to "get the vaccinations out" and "depoliticizing" the federal COVID response. In January 2022, Hutchinson encouraged large businesses to not comply with the Biden administration's vaccine requirements.

Hutchinson demanded that Republicans who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election and spread Donald Trump's "Big Lie" about mass voter fraud not be put in positions of leadership. He also accused Trump of dividing the party and said his election conspiracies were a "recipe for disaster". On February 5, 2022, Hutchinson and U.S. senator Lisa Murkowski condemned the Republican National Committee's censure of representatives Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney for their support of and participation on the House Select Committee tasked with investigating the January 6 United States Capitol attack.

Post-gubernatorial career

2024 presidential campaign

In May 2022, Hutchinson said he would consider running for president in 2024 even if former President Donald Trump ran again and that Trump's candidacy would not be a factor in his decision. He added, "I think he did a lot of good things for our country, but we need to go a different direction". On April 2, 2023, during an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Hutchinson announced his candidacy for the 2024 Republican Party presidential primaries.

Toward the beginning of his campaign Hutchinson distinguished himself as a Trump critic, calling for the former president to drop out of the race after being indicted by a New York grand jury. After Trump was indicted by a federal grand jury for mishandling classified documents, Hutchinson criticized other Republican presidential candidates for saying they would pardon Trump if elected. He also rebuked allegations made by fellow Republicans that the Department of Justice had been "weaponized" against Trump. Hutchinson came out against the decision by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to require candidates wishing to participate in the primary debate to sign a loyalty pledge saying they would support the eventual Republican nominee, stating he would not vote for Trump if convicted on federal charges. Because of the debate conditions, Hutchinson organized a meeting between RNC officials and one of his staffers. The staffer, on behalf of Hutchinson, requested that the RNC amend the debate requirements to accommodate Hutchinson's concerns; the RNC rejected his request. Hutchinson ultimately decided to sign the pledge, but when candidates were asked during the debate to raise their hand if they would still support Trump as the party's nominee if he were convicted, he and Chris Christie were the only ones not to do so.

Hutchinson failed to make any of the other debates, with his poll numbers remaining at around one percent nationally. He would drop out of the race on January 16, the day after he earned only 191 votes in the Iowa caucuses, fewer votes than every other candidate, including little-known candidate Ryan Binkley.

Personal life

Hutchinson has four children with his wife, Susan Burrell.

Hutchinson's older brother, Tim, preceded him as U.S. representative from Arkansas' 3rd congressional district and served as a U.S. senator from 1997 to 2003 before being defeated for reelection by Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor, a Democrat, in 2002. Asa and Tim Hutchinson are both graduates of Bob Jones University. Tim Hutchinson's identical twin sons, Jeremy and Timothy Chad Hutchinson, were the first twins to serve together in the Arkansas General Assembly, both as members of the House of Representatives. Asa Hutchinson is the brother-in-law of former Arkansas state senator Kim Hendren, who in 1958 married his sister Marylea Hutchinson. Arkansas district 2 state senator Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs is Hutchinson's nephew.

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See also

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