LAKE OUACHITA – Sarah Huckabee Sanders took time to answer a few questions Sunday, September 5, before kicking off her “freedom Tour” on Lake Ouachita.
The boat parade on Lake Ouachita was the first event in a whirlwind campaign tour that included 15 stops around the state in seven days. The Lake Ouachita event looked more like a vacation for the Sanders family with her husband Bryan, her children Scarlett, Huck and George joining her along with her parents Mike and Janet Huckabee.
When asked about her decision to begin the Freedom Tour on Lake Ouachita she stated that it is a special place for her family and is a place they love to visit. She also pointed out that Montgomery County is a great place to showcase the natural beauty of Arkansas.
“Lake Ouachita is breathtaking no matter which part of the lake your on.” She stated.
Sanders added that beginning the tour on Lake Ouachita not only gives her a chance to showcase the beauty of the state, but also some of the great people she has gotten to know over the years.
“It’s like coming home when your here. Bill Barnes is somebody our family has known for a really long time and when we were putting this together it just seemed like a natural thing for us.” She said.
Bill Barnes is the owner of Mountain Harbor Resort where the boat parade began.
It was almost a year to the day from the last time Sanders participated in a boat parade on Lake Ouachita. Last September a boat parade held to show support for then President Donald Trump drew over 1,500 boats. Sanders, who had served as a senior advisor on President Trump’s 2016 campaign and as his press secretary, spoke at the event.
There has not been an official tally released from Sunday’s parade, but hundreds of boats could be seen lining up for the event.
Before she boarded her boat for the rally she took time to answer a few questions about issues that effect Montgomery County residents.
When asked about education she stated that education has to be one of our biggest priorities.
“Education is probably the single biggest thing we can focus on to change the trajectory of kids growing up in the state.” Sanders said.
Sanders stated that the state hasn’t had a major reform on education since her father Mike Huckabee was governor. Reforms enacted during his term in office focused on holding schools accountable for financial practices, and low test scores. Schools with low enrollment were also affected with some small rural schools forced to consolidate with other school districts as a result of low enrollment.
She said that the lack of recent education reforms is unacceptable and she believes it is time for government to step up and create reforms that will have a long term impact. Sanders shared that she thinks the way people look at education is wrong. The focus has been on forcing kids through the system and checking boxes, and have not focused on whether students are going to be able to do something when they graduate.
She stated that she believes even at the earliest grades we need to be focused on asking if we are placing students on a path to where they can be a contributing member of society. These paths can include two year trade schools and four year universities. Sanders indicated that this philosophy keeps young people from becoming dependent on the government and allows them to decide the kind of life they want to live.
“To me one of the greatest things about being an American and being an Arkansan is that it doesn’t matter where you start, you get to decide where you finish. Education is the biggest foundation for having the ability to make that decision.” Sanders shared.
When asked about how she would work to promote the tourism industry in Montgomery County and the state Sanders said that she believes that one of the jobs as governor is to be the chief salesperson and spokesperson for the state. She added that she thinks we need to do a better job selling our state.
Arkansas offers so many things that draw people to the state. Activities like boating, hiking, hunting, fishing and biking are big draws to the state and Montgomery County. Outdoor activities bring so much to the state’s economy and she stated she feels more needs to be done.
Sanders pointed out, “One of the reasons we wanted to have this component, not just the RVs, was to be out on the water showcasing what an incredibly beautiful state we have, and hope that more people from around the state are reminded of that and enjoy the natural beauty of our state.”
She added that she hoped people from all over the country can see what a great place Arkansas is and want to come visit and spend a lot of money here.
When asked what her approach would be if elected to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanders stated that we have been in an unprecedented situation where the information is constantly changing. She stated that she thinks that people have done the best they could under the circumstances.
Mistakes she thinks were made when deciding what kind of businesses were essential and non-essential and forcing mandates across the board. She added that she felt Arkansas has done fairly well in keeping things open which has been important to the success of a lot of businesses keeping their doors open.
Sarah and her husband Bryan started a nonprofit organization called the Arkansas 30 day fund in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wanted to do our part to help keep businesses open.”
She added that one of the things that was remarkable about the experience was how generous people in our state were. Also to see a community of people doing everything they could to help those around them to keep their doors open.
She concluded by saying that at the end of the day people have to take personal responsibility. She talked about an op-ed she wrote recently chronicling her decision to get vaccinated. She encouraged others to make the best decisions for themselves and their families and to do this in consultation with their doctor and not misinformation.
When asked about her decision to run for governor in her first bid for political office and how some might doubt her readiness for the job, Sanders said that she thinks that in a way her whole life prepared her for this job. Specifically, she stated that she believes she had one of the hardest jobs in America while working for President Trump. She added that she was part of every legislative package and decision that was made the past two years she worked in the Trump administration. She stated that she sat across the table from dozens and dozens of world leaders and has been part of the negotiations on trade deals and tax cuts, education reform. She stated that she believes she enters the race better prepared than others seeking the office as a result of this experience.
She stated that she believes that one thing that is important for anyone who has not been elected to an office is who they are at their core. “I don’t think there is any better preparation than knowing what your priorities are and for me I love this state, I love the people here and I want to see us be successful. I know I have the ability to lead us to the next step and the next generation of leadership that we need to take us to the top. I feel very confident about where I am and my ability to lead Arkansas”
If elected Sanders would be the first woman elected governor and the first mother. When asked about what this means to her she replied that being a parent helps keep you focused. She stated that she knows that every decision she makes will not only impact her own children, but every child in Arkansas. This is a responsibility that she doesn’t take lightly, but is one she relishes as an opportunity to lead the state for her kids, as well as all the kids in the state of Arkansas.
Her father joked that if she is elected governor her children will have a hard time finding a place to hide in the governor’s mansion because growing up there, she knows were they all are. If elected she and her father will be the first father-daughter tandem to be elected governor in Arkansas.