Booz­man, Hutchin­son of­fer glimpse into fu­ture plans

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - Steve Brawner is a syn­di­cated colum­nist in Arkansas. Email him at brawn­er­[email protected] Fol­low him on Twit­ter @steve­brawner.

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.

STEVE BRAWNER

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