Who is Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

Former White House press secretary gives Republican rebuttal to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address

Republican politician Sarah Huckabee Sanders, 40, is the youngest governor in the US. Reuters
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Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary under the Donald Trump administration, returned to the political spotlight on Tuesday as she delivered the Republican Party's rebuttal to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address.

The response to a sitting president's State of the Union address is traditionally a task that the opposition party gives to a rising star in their ranks.

Previous politicians to have delivered a rebuttal include former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (2016) former US representative Joe Kennedy III (2018), voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams (2019), and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (2020).

Maryland Governor Kim Reynolds provided the Republican response to Mr Biden's address last year.

The opposition party's rebuttal to the State of the Union gives them the opportunity to lay out their own agenda, which is typically completely contrary to speech just delivered.

Arkansas' first female governor

Ms Huckabee Sanders, Arkansas's first female governor, is also the first politician from the southern state to provide a State of the Union rebuttal since then-governor Bill Clinton in 1985.

At 40, Ms Huckabee Sanders is also the nation's youngest governor.

The Arkansas Governor ran her campaign by railing against Mr Biden's Covid-19 and immigration policies, issues that are often the targets of her Republican peers.

Arkansas has a poverty rate of 17.2 per cent, the seventh highest in the nation.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is sworn in as Arkansas Governor

Arkansas Gov.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks after taking the oath of the office on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol Tuesday, Jan.  10, 2023, in Little Rock, Ark.  (AP Photo / Will Newton)

Since being sworn in as governor last month, Ms Huckabee Sanders signed executive orders that barred the teaching of critical race theory, banned TikTok from state mobile devices, removed the gender-neutral word “Latinx” from state documents and repealed Covid-19 executive orders.

“I promised that when I was elected governor, Arkansas would not have mask mandates or vaccine mandates and we would not shut down churches and schools because we believe in personal freedom and responsibility,” she said when she signed the order scrapping Covid-19 measures.

A combative White House press secretary

As Mr Trump's press secretary from 2017 to 2019, Ms Huckabee Sanders frequently clashed with the media and reduced the frequency of briefings.

The White House set numerous records for most days without a formal press briefing during her tenure.

Ms Huckabee Sanders's time in the White House was not without its contentious moments.

In 2018 she defended the White House revoking a CNN reporter's press credentials, an unprecedented action.

She also admitted to investigators during the Robert Mueller investigation in 2019 that she had lied to the press.

Mr Trump endorsed Ms Huckabee Sanders during her campaign to become governor, although she has yet to say whether she would endorse her former boss in his 2024 presidential ambitions.

Updated: February 08, 2023, 2:55 AM