FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — William Asa Hutchinson II is in the twilight of his time serving as the 46th Governor of the State of Arkansas.
Arkansans headed to the polls on November 8 and elected Sarah Huckabee Sanders as his replacement for the highest office in The Natural State. This is an opportunity to take a look back at Asa Hutchinson’s distinctive life and illustrious career of service to the state.
He was born and raised in Bentonville and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bob Jones University in South Carolina. His path to public service began immediately after that, as he enrolled in the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Upon graduating, Hutchinson became a litigator in Fort Smith, where he tried over 100 cases in the courtroom. In 1982, he was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas by President Ronald Reagan. At just 31 years of age, he was the youngest U.S. Attorney in the nation.
Hutchinson’s first major political campaign came a few years later, when he lost a race for the U.S. Senate in 1986. A defeat in an attempt to become Arkansas’ Attorney General followed in 1990.
He became co-chair of the state’s Republican party in 1990 and held that role until 1995. The following year, he garnered his first political victory in the state—just one of many to come—when he won a U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by his brother, Tim, who left to run for U.S. Senate.
Hutchinson was re-elected to Congress with a whopping 80% of the vote in 1998. He served as an impeachment manager against Bill Clinton that year, and then secured his seat again, unopposed this time, in 2000.
In 2001, President George W. Bush named Hutchinson as the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He was confirmed to the position by a 98-1 Senate vote.
Following 9/11, President Bush appointed Hutchinson to lead the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, a division of the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He was confirmed by unanimous Senate consent in 2003, and eventually left office as the Undersecretary of DHS in 2005.
He founded a consulting company, The Hutchinson Group, in 2005 but didn’t stay out of the public sector for long. In 2006, he won the Republican primary in the Arkansas governor’s race, only to be defeated by Democrat Mike Beebe in November.
In 2010, Hutchinson served on The Constitution Project’s Guantanamo Task Force, and in 2013 he presented the National School Shield Plan, a school security proposal crafted by the National Rifle Association.
He finally claimed his current post in 2014, when he was elected Governor of Arkansas with 55% of the vote—the best showing by a Republican in an open-seat gubernatorial race since the end of Reconstruction. He was easily re-elected in 2018, taking 65% of the vote and winning 67 of 75 counties across the state.
It was the largest margin of victory by a Republican candidate in the Governor’s race in Arkansas history. In May 2022, Hutchinson began contemplating his next political move and said that he would consider running for President of the United States in 2024.
He added that former President Trump’s decision to run or not wouldn’t be a factor in his own decision.
“I think he did a lot of good things for our country,” Hutchinson stated. “But we need to go a different direction.”
Huckabee Sanders, elected to be the 47th Governor of Arkansas, is scheduled to be sworn in on January 10, 2023.