Rex Nelson is a lifelong Republican and an opinion writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He remembers when the state had moderate, pragmatic governors, both Republican and Democrat.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is not one of them. Instead of surrounding herself with knowledgeable locals, she has imported leftovers from the Trump administration, with no connection to Arkansas.

Her tweets and comments are nasty, just like Trump’s. She lashes out at enemies, some imaginary, and insults them. She learned at Trump’s feet.

He writes:

Though my expectations were low based on the hyper-partisan, angry, shallow campaign run last year by Sarah Sanders, I held off writing this column in the hope that our governor–who had never held elected office and never had a job in the private sector outside of political consulting–would mature once in office.

I’m a conservative. I spent 15 years working for Republican candidates and officeholders. I remember a time in the early 1980s when there were so few of us in Arkansas who identified as Republicans that we all knew each other on a first-name basis. In fact, the people who seem the saddest about the tragedy that is the Sanders administration are those Arkansas Republicans I met four decades ago. They no longer recognize their party.

“I just want to cry,” one of them told me after calling my house on a Sunday afternoon.

I can’t help but think back to 1996 when Mike Huckabee was thrust into the governor’s office following Tucker’s resignation. Huckabee dropped out of a U.S. Senate race he was going to win, choosing Arkansas over the lure of national politics. He surrounded himself with experienced Arkansans. His senior management team included highly respected former legislators such as Dick Barclay, Jim von Gremp and Joe Yates.

Huckabee also brought to his administration a string of strong women, all native Arkansans with long years of service to the state. There was former legislator Carolyn Pollan of Fort Smith and Judge Betty Dickey of Pine Bluff. Huckabee’s chief of staff his entire time in office was Brenda Turner of Texarkana. Turner worked behind the scenes and kept a low profile, but she was a force of nature.

Sanders has surrounded herself with political journeymen who have no concern about the people of Arkansas or this state’s future. It’s all about the boss’ national political standing. These aides will simply move on to other states when they’re done here, leaving the rest of us to deal with the damage.

Sanders and her top aides seem intent on bringing the chaos and divisiveness of the comical Trump administration to state government–rushing through a major education overhaul in order to avoid needed debate, avoiding the Arkansas media, relying on national far-right outlets, and putting out mindless tweets about national politics that have nothing to do with Arkansas.

Rex Nelson refers to Sanders and her team of inexperienced staff as “the Trumpettes.”

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