Former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson is running for governor of Arkansas. That state is shifting red but Republicans still have not captured all statewide offices. The incumbent, Democrat Mike Beebe, defeated Hutchinson in 2006. Current polling has Hutchinson as the front-runner for 2014, though his lead against one of the Democratic contenders is a mere five points. His record may hurt Republicans in a race that is very winnable for the GOP.
When he ran for governor in 2006, Hutchinson railed against Arkansas’ tax system, but then failed to support an important tax cut, before changing his mind.
Hutchinson stumbled on the issue of taxes early in his campaign, initially saying that a cut in the state’s grocery tax wasn’t part of his agenda. He later called for a complete elimination of the tax, as opposed to the phased-out cut that Beebe ran on. Beebe regularly accused Hutchinson of flip-flopping on the tax issue during the campaign.
So there’s a tw0-fer: Not being an instinctive tax cutter, and possibly being a flip-flopper. Both provide openings for runs to Hutchinson’s right in an increasingly conservative state.
In 2000, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Hutchinson spoke against the elimination of the federal gas tax as pump prices started upward. And in 2001, he voted against eliminating the marriage tax. It passed the House 282-144 without his vote.
Hutchinson’s record also includes a tilt toward supporting higher taxes on airline tickets.
Arkansas Republicans may want to consider nominating a candidate who hasn’t lost three statewide races already, as Hutchinson has, and whose record on taxes is a bit more consistent with the party’s philosophy.