Oct 20, 2022 - Politics

Gov. Asa Hutchinson takes up leadership reins at summit

Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared the stage with fellow Republican, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, on Wednesday. Photo: Courtesy America Strong and Free

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson shared a stage at an "ideas summit" Wednesday with fellow Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is heavily favored as his successor.

  • The two discussed common philosophies on governing, education and how faith guides their leadership.

What happened: Hutchinson's nonprofit advocacy organization, America Strong and Free, convened an array of mostly conservative politicians and policy wonks at The Momentary in Bentonville.

  • Dubbed America Leads: An Ideas Summit, the event provided a platform to discuss education, foreign policy, national security and entrepreneurship through a right-leaning lens.

Why it matters: The event comes weeks before the midterm elections, when voters are polarized and many Americans question how well democracy is working. It positioned Hutchinson as a Reagan-esque member of the Grand Old Party, able to lead.

  • It's speculated Hutchinson, who is term-limited, will run for president in 2024. Whether he makes a bid or not, the event demonstrated his willingness — and political clout — to gather thought leaders for genial public discourse.

Details: About 300 politicians and civic and business leaders from across the U.S. paid $800 each to attend the summit, which consisted of in-person panel discussions with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Bill Haslam, former governor of Tennessee, among others.

  • The final panel included Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and CEO of venture capital firm Revolution, as well as Steuart and Tom Walton, co-founders of Runway Group. They discussed the importance of growing industry hubs that foster entrepreneurs in the heartland, especially following the pandemic.

What they said: "People think division is unique for today's world," Hutchinson said, referring to the political climate in the U.S.

  • "It's not unique today. In the '60s we had division through the Vietnam War … and yet we put a man on the moon as we came together. In the '70s we had high inflation, as we have now. We had high interest rates. We had an economy in despair and not respected globally, and yet we came together."

Yes, and: "When you're in public office, you don't abandon your faith. … It should guide you every day, " Hutchinson said in his conversation with Sanders.

Context: America Strong and Free, Inc., is a nonprofit education and advocacy organization, which has the same officers as the America Strong and Free PAC.

What we're watching: Hutchinson has said he'll wait until after the midterm elections to announce his next steps.


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