Arkansas voters chose former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders as their next governor.according to an election projection by The Associated Press.
Sanders, 40 years old, becomes first woman elected to lead solidly Republican state and succeeds outgoing term Governor Asa Hutchinson.
She will take office in January, 16 years after her father, Mike Huckabee, stepped down after a 10-year stint as governor.
Sanders’ victory was a foregone conclusion, despite a recent cancer diagnosis and a serious challenge from Democratic candidate Chris Jones. In his campaign Sanders faced criticism for not focusing on Arkansas-specific issues and for limiting access to the press in favor of carefully scripted rallies and appearances.
In her only debate just weeks before Election Day, Jones, a Baptist minister and MIT-educated scientist, called out Sanders for her perceived lack of transparency and clear political goals.
“The more leaders who are unwilling to come forward and answer the tough questions in front of crowds that don’t agree with them and media that don’t agree with them, the further we’ll drift from the strength of our democracy,” Jones said.
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