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Rutledge exits governor's race to run for lieutenant governor

November 11, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced her departure Tuesday night from the 2022 governor's race to run for lieutenant governor, leaving Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the lone announced Republican gubernatorial candidate.

State Republicans late Tuesday began congratulating Sanders as the presumptive GOP nominee, though potential candidates still have three months to decide whether to enter the race.

Rutledge's entrance into the lieutenant governor's race further crowds the six-candidate Republican primary for the state's No. 2 job.

Rutledge on Tuesday did not give a reason for her withdrawal from the governor's race.

"Since announcing my candidacy for governor, I have been blessed by an outpouring of support from Arkansans in every community," Rutledge said in a news release. "At this crossroads in our country's history, now is a time for Christian conservative leaders to unite and fight together against those who wish to destroy the America we know and love."

Rutledge announced her entry into the governor's race on July 1, 2020. Sanders announced her bid for governor in late January.

Sanders of Little Rock served as White House press secretary for former President Donald Trump. She is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

"Sarah Sanders has been a friend for many years, and I know that as Governor she will stand strong against the onslaught of the liberal Left's attack on our home state," said Rutledge, who served a stint as an aide to Huckabee when he was governor.

In a statement, Sanders thanked Rutledge for her leadership.

"I look forward to uniting Arkansans behind my vision to grow our economy and create high-paying jobs, increase access to quality education, and deliver bold, conservative reforms that take our state to the top," she said.

Rutledge's departure from the race comes after Sanders raised and spent substantially more campaign funds than Rutledge.

At the end of the third quarter of this year, Sanders reported raising $11 million for her campaign, a record for a gubernatorial candidate, and spending $4.2 million. That left the campaign with more than $7 million cash on hand, according to a recent news release.

Rutledge had raised more than $1.6 million and spent nearly $560,000, leaving the campaign with over $636,000 cash on hand.

Rutledge's campaign manager, Drew Evans, declined to say Tuesday whether she plans to transfer the funds that she raised for governor to run for lieutenant governor or refund the contributions to donors and ask them to donate the funds to her lieutenant governor campaign.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Rogers has served as governor since 2015 and is barred from seeking reelection under the state's term limits. Republican Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin of Little Rock also has been in office since 2015.

The filing period for state candidates begins Feb. 22, and the primary election is May 24. The general election is Nov. 8 next year.

Print Headline: Rutledge exits governor's race to run for lieutenant governor

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