Former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said Saturday in Carson City he will announce later this spring if he plans to run for president.
Huckabee, who finished fourth in the Nevada caucus seven years ago behind Mitt Romney, John McCain and Ron Paul, was the keynote speaker at Nevada Republican Central Committee’s spring meeting at Silver State Charter School. He held a press conference prior to the dinner.
“I will make a formal decision sometime this spring,” said Huckabee, who answered questions ranging from amnesty for undocumented immigrants to what sets him apart from other candidates who may be running in the Republican presidential primaries in 2016.
The first question directed at Huckabee, though, focused on Friday’s unexpected retirement announcement from Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. Huckabee said he hopes the state can elect a Republican senator in 2016. To borrow a song’s title, Huckabee said, “Happy Days are Here Again.”
As for undocumented immigrants, Huckabee said he’s not an “amnesty guy,” but he doesn’t want to beat up on children because their parents entered the Untied States illegally. He told a story of a child who was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was 4 years old and then entered school.
“He was required by Arkansas law to do that,” Huckabee said, referring to mandatory school attendance. “He couldn’t sit out. He had to go to school. We force him to go to school. He just didn’t go … he excelled.”
The child, according to Huckabee, eventually became valedictorian of El Dorado High School, one of the largest in the state, and qualified for the same universities and scholarships as the other top students in Arkansas.
While Huckabee extolled praise on the student, the former governor said he opposes the current concept of the DREAM Act, a bill that would grant conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors, graduated from U.S. high schools and continuously lived in the country for a minimum of five years prior to the bill’s enactment.
“The DREAM Act is different,” Huckabee explained. “The DREAM Act is being done unconstitutionally and illegally by a president who refuses to follow the process of getting legislation passed. There are laws that govern what we do and don’t do.”
Huckabee said if he didn’t follow the state’s constitution as governor, then legislators and the press would hound him for disregarding Arkansas law.
With a handful of potential Republican presidential candidates lining up to join the race, Huckabee said his experience as governor sets him apart from others.
“No one has governed in a state as Democratic and blue as mine,” Huckabee said, adding Arkansas in the 1990s was the most Democratic-leaning state in the country. “It was overwhelmingly the most lopsided state in the country … it was tough sledding, but I learned how to govern.”
During his tenure in office, Huckabee said the Democrat-controlled legislature passed 90 percent of his legislation including bills to improve education and roads. He touted the economic improvement of the state’s residents.
“I saw an average Arkansas family’s income increase by 50 percent during my tenure in office, which I think is an ever important criteria of the economic strength of the state,” he added.
Huckabee touched on national defense and said he would like to see military spending return to 6 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) that occurred during the Reagan presidency. Latest estimates put the current percentage at slightly more than 4 percent.
“We are in the most dangerous place probably in my lifetime,” Huckabee said. “Our threats are even greater than the Cold War.”
He said both the Soviets and Americans didn’t want to push the button to launch a nuclear war; however, Huckabee said he’s weary of the Iranians.
“We’re now dealing with people, particularly in the Middle East, specifically in Iran, that are irrational,” Huckabee said. “If they had that weapon, they very likely would push that button. We’re not in best position to have a weak defensive system and weak military to remain strong. The best way to prevent war is to have a military that no one wants to pick on.”
Hypothetically speaking, if Huckabee decides to run for president and becomes the Republicans’ nominee, and if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerges as the Democrat’s candidate, it would be a political reunion for both candidates. Both have roots in Hope, Ark. Bill Clinton and Huckabee were born in the small Arkansas city, which is a little larger than Fallon.
Huckabee said if the Democrats liked Bill Clinton when he was president, perhaps they would like him.
“If nothing else, maybe the Republicans would give ‘Hope’ one more chance,” said a grinning Huckabee.