Boozman, Hutchinson offer glimpse into future plans
Sen. John Boozman is 68 years old, which is still relatively young, but he’s had some past health issues and is entirely too nice to be in Washington these days. When I asked him Saturday if he plans to run for re-election in 2022, I figured he’d give me a standard nonanswer to avoid saying he probably isn’t.
Instead, he said this: “If you had to ask me today, I’ve got to talk to my family and all of those kind of things, I’d say yes. … But that’s a long time. It’s not really two years. It’s like threeand-a-half years.”
My assumption was wrong. Not the first time, and not the last, and that’s just for this column.
Meanwhile, by 2022, Gov. Asa Hutchinson will be term-limited out of office. He’s a week older than Boozman, as both were born in December 1950, but he’s had no health issues and plays basketball pretty vigorously for a man pushing 70. Asked in March by journalist Roby Brock if he will be finished with politics when his term ends, he replied, “Wouldn’t count me out.”
So if Hutchinson isn’t “out,” where would he try to get in? There’s no place in state government after being governor. He could return to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served three terms. But being one of 435 representatives would not be a promotion after being one of 50 governors, particularly if Republicans are still in the minority there. Plus, he’d have to unseat an incumbent, presumably Rep. Steve Womack in the Third District, assuming Womack still wants to keep the seat in 2022.
The logical next step is United States senator. Would Hutchinson run against Boozman?
“Oh, no. Oh, no. No,” the governor told me after speaking to educational administrators in Little Rock Monday.
That’s definitive. He also told me, “I hope Sen. Boozman runs for re-election. I have every indication that he will, and I think it’s wonderful because he’s a great United States senator.”
He also said, “The only thing I’ve said is that I’m not done yet.”
He can’t be governor after 2022. Boozman’s seat may not be an option. He’s been there, done that with the House of Representatives. And he’s not a close ally of President Trump, so an appointment to a Cabinet-level position doesn’t seem likely.
That leaves one office. What about running for president? Like Boozman, Hutchinson did not offer the nonanswer I assumed he would.
“You know, if there was the right opportunity and need there, that option is on the table, but again, you don’t see that in the short term, but we’ll see what happens down the road,” he said.
So a presidential run is “on the table.” Hutchinson would be 74 by 2024 and would turn 75 before taking office, but he is in great shape. Meanwhile, Trump is 73 and is running for re-election. Among Democrats, Joe Biden is 76, and Sen. Bernie Sanders is 77.
As both Boozman and Hutchinson pointed out, the 2022 U.S. Senate race is still three years away. Health situations might intervene, job opportunities might arise, and/or wives might put their feet down. President Trump could offer Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton a Cabinet position such as secretary of defense. I don’t think he would take it, but if he did, his seat would open up earlier, and maybe Hutchinson could run for that.
That 2022 election will be interesting. Lt. Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also will be term-limited. Capitol watchers have expected those two to run for governor that year. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders, if she runs as Trump has encouraged her to do, would be a formidable opponent for anyone in an Arkansas Republican primary.
So to sum it up, Boozman is leaning toward running for re-election in 2022, while Hutchinson isn’t ruling out a presidential bid in 2024.
Yeah, I know it’s only 2019.