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NRA task force chief Asa Hutchinson in bid to turn Arkansas red

Arkansas' governor's seat has historically swung blue, but could it now turn a shade of red? The NRA task force leader Asa Hutchinson has entered the 2014 gubernatorial race.
/ Source: The Last Word

Arkansas' governor's seat has historically swung blue, but could it now turn a shade of red? The NRA task force leader Asa Hutchinson has entered the 2014 gubernatorial race.

Once an arm for the NRA, Asa Hutchinson is now moving on to his next political step—running for governor of Arkansas.

Just a few weeks after the former Arkansas congressman unveiled a National Shield Program study issued by the NRA, Hutchinson took to Twitter to officially announce his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2014.

I have completed my report on school safety as Dir, Nat School Shield Task Force, and formally declare my candidacy for Gov 2014…— Asa Hutchinson (@AsaHutchinson) April 10, 2013

The gubernatorial race won’t be Hutchinson’s first shot at the seat—in 2007 he lost to Arkansas’ current Democratic governor, Mike Beebe, who now is term-limited and unable to seek re-election. But now, it appears that Hutchinson might stand a chance of electoral redemption. While Arkansas has remained the singular blue state among southern states, the 2012 election changed the tide of the state legislature as Arkansas Republicans took control of the state Senate and state House for the first time since Reconstruction. Until November 2012, Arkansas remained the only state in the South where both legislative chambers were controlled by Democrats.

That November, Republicans also gained control of all four of the state’s congressional seats, and was claimed by Mitt Romney.

Hutchinson’s candidacy comes as he stretches his time on the national stage after being tapped to head up the NRA-funded task force in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre appointed Hutchinson to lead the effort in December, saying, “Under Asa’s leadership, our team of security experts will make this the best program in the world for protecting our children at school, and we will make that program available to every school in America free of charge.”

Hutchinson has since stressed the “independent” nature of the study at a press conference. ”I’m not with the NRA nor do I represent the NRA, nor am I a spokesman for the NRA. So I’m in here just as the director of the task force that just looked at the school safety issues,” Hutchinson told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell a day after the Shield Program’s announcement.

Hoping to enter back into politics, Hutchinson originally floated the idea of running for governor in 2014 but said he would not officially announce his candidacy until his work for the NRA-backed school safety initiative was complete.

“It was essential that I complete the national study and report on school safety, which was significantly shaped by the comments of Arkansas educators received during the last three months,” Hutchinson said in a statement announcing his run. “The report was released last week and now I am free to devote myself to the necessary fundraising efforts and looking to Arkansas’ future including the economic development challenges facing our state.”

Hutchinson has already raised over $350,000 in contributions for the first three months of the year.

Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman is the other announced Republican candidate for governor. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter has already declared to run and is leading the Democratic race after reporting raising $1 million in the first quarter — $640,000 is coming from a personal loan.

Former congressman Mike Ross is also expected to announce his run for the Democratic nomination next Wednesday.

Hutchinson served in Congress from 1997-2001 then was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and also served as the first Under Secretary at the Homeland Security Department.