DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, joining the ranks of fellow Republicans such as former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
He formally announced his 2024 candidacy on Wednesday.
Local 5 investigative reporter Mary Sugden sat down with Hutchinson via Zoom to discuss his campaign priorities, including his commitment to states' rights and how he differs from former President Trump.
Questions and responses have been edited for length or clarity.
Q: What is your reaction to President Biden's announcement that he is running for reelection?
A: Well, it wasn't a particular surprise. But what surprised me is that he really focused on attacking the past instead of talking about the future and the opportunities to improve our economy. I think he missed an opportunity there. But it really points out the contrast is going to be set between the policies of the Biden administration that have failed and what Republicans want to do in terms of reducing federal spending, in terms of securing the southern border, stopping the fentanyl that comes into our country and addressing some of the really challenging issues that we face as a nation.
Q: At the Faith and Freedom event, you said if you were elected as president, you would reverse President Biden's executive orders on day one. What are some of the policies that you'd want to take action on first?
A: Well, whenever you look at the ruling that this administration has done that requires businesses to put a priority on ESG, which are the social leftist policies that drive our businesses and our schools, that needs to change immediately. Whenever you look at the fact that he immediately reversed the prior administration's security policies at the border, that needs to be done away with. We need to start funding the operations there more aggressively. So those are just a couple of things that he did through executive orders, and the list goes far beyond that.
Q: In 2020, you endorsed President Donald Trump for reelection. Now, he is your opponent. Why do you believe Iowans should move away from former President Trump?
A: Well, first of all, we want to move away from the policies of the Biden administration. To do that, we have to win. And the best opportunity to win is to provide new leadership that can compete on the issues that have a positive vision about America and our future. Donald Trump lost in 2020 to Joe Biden. Let's not replay that scenario again. I think we do need to have alternatives. That's why I'm in there. There are substantive differences as well with Donald Trump that we can talk about during the campaign. By and large, I want to be able to focus that we need to have a pro-growth energy policy. We need to be able to slow down federal spending, secure our border, reduce the influence of drugs in our society and make America strong again. That's what makes me different than Donald Trump. He wants to look at an isolationist United States, versus us supporting Ukraine, winning against Russia and being strong against China.
Q: If elected president, would you want those decisions to be made at the state level or do you believe there should be some federal legislation when it comes to abortion?
A: I would prefer that these issues be resolved at the state level. But let me emphasize: Democrats are going to be pushing a very open abortion policy if they have control of the House. And so, if I have the choice, I'd rather have a national pro-life policy versus a pro-abortion policy. While I prefer it to be resolved at the state level, I can see the circumstances if we don't have a divided government that we do set the national standard. The critical thing is that the appropriate exceptions are in place, including rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger.
Q: In the Iowa legislature, there's been a number of bills focused on transgender issues. If elected president, do you see the need for federal legislation surrounding transgender issues such as gender-affirming care bans?
A: I hope this is something that can be handled at the state level. Obviously, I signed legislation that protects women's sports, saying that biological males cannot compete in women's sports. And so these are generally issues that are handled at the state level, and even at the local community level. I hope that's the way that we can do it in the future.
Q: As a final message to Iowans, how do you stand out from the growing crowd of Republicans running for president?
A: I hope that voters will look at my experience matching the needs of our country. Nobody matches the breadth of experience I have at the federal and state level. These are experiences that are important to securing our border, to reducing fentanyl in our communities, balancing a budget as I've done as governor for eight years. These are credentials that I believe are important for the future of our country. Most importantly, it's trust, it's character, it's relationships. I hope to build that confidence in the coming months in Iowa.