Government & Politics

Nine things to know about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary

Excerpts from Sarah Huckabee Sanders' White House news briefing

Sanders is drawing close scrutiny the week of May 10 as she leads the daily press briefings in press secretary Sean Spicer's absence.
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Sanders is drawing close scrutiny the week of May 10 as she leads the daily press briefings in press secretary Sean Spicer's absence.

In many ways Sarah Elizabeth Huckabee Sanders is her father’s daughter.

The White House press secretary is the youngest of three children of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet. She is their only daughter.

The 34-year-old Sanders became press secretary after Sean Spicer resigned on July 21.

Her prime time behind the lectern has kicked up speculation that the woman already tagged as a fearless, quick-on-her-feet, “rising star” in the administration is being auditioned to replace Spicer.

She has people talking about her Southern charm offensive. Before she opened the Wednesday briefing she wished her 5-year-old daughter, Scarlett, happy birthday on live TV.

“I think her first birthday wish would probably be that you guys are incredibly nice,” she told the assembled reporters.

Here are nine quick things to know about her.

1. Arkansas is her place called hope

Both of her parents hail from Hope, Ark., hometown of former President Bill Clinton. Ties to her home state – where her father in 2000 famously installed a triple-wide “manufactured home” at the governor’s mansion during a renovation – run deep.

Sanders graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., a private liberal arts college that focuses “on a love of God and a love of learning.” She was active there in Republican groups and other student organizations.

Her father also attended Ouachita, home of the Michael D. Huckabee School of Education.

She is friends with Mack McLarty, Clinton’s former chief of staff. She consulted him and several other Arkansas friends about her new White House gig, reported The Associated Press.

McLarty advised her to appreciate the “historic opportunity” to work in the White House. She moved her family from Arkansas to Washington when she joined the Trump administration.

2. She and her dad are tight

Mike Huckabee is his daughter’s political hero. “He’s an amazing politician, but an even better parent,” she told Time in 2010. “Every day he challenges me to be a better person and I will forever be grateful for that.”

They talk to each other most mornings before 6 a.m. “I’ll call and say, ‘What do you think if I say this?’ He’ll say, ‘That’s really good. You might try to say it a little bit more like X,’” she told the Associated Press in March.

3. She worked for many Republican candidates, including her dad, before Trump

Sanders worked for both of her father’s presidential campaigns, as well as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential run, according to CNN. She managed her father’s failed 2016 presidential bid.

She’s also worked for two consulting firms and for the Department of Education during the George W. Bush administration.

4. No, she’s not related to Bernie Sanders

Sanders – who goes by @SarahHuckabee on Twitter – met her husband, Republican campaign consultant Bryan Sanders, when he joined her father’s 2008 campaign.

According to the Arkansas Gazette they married on May 25, 2010, at the Nazareth Lutheran Church on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

In February 2016 they started the Second Street Strategies consulting firm in Little Rock.

Bryan Sanders was a staffer on Sam Brownback’s 2008 presidential campaign. He grew up in Mission Woods in Johnson County and graduated from Shawnee Mission East in 2002.

5. She has three children

Like Ivanka Trump, Sanders is a working mother in the White House with three children.

Like Ivanka Trump’s children, Sanders’ tots make frequent appearances on their mom’s social media.

6. She’s a Trump whisperer.

Huckabee Sanders joined the Trump campaign in February 2016 as a senior adviser not long after her dad’s own presidential aspirations ended after the Iowa caucuses. She has said she liked Trump’s “outsider” status.

Her job on the Trump campaign included reaching out to “faith leaders, gun rights supporters, military groups, and other voter coalitions,” according to Bloomberg.

In the words of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Sanders “understands America. She understands the president. And she understands how to connect the two. The president has a great deal of trust in Sarah.”

7. She’s got bite in her fight

On the one hand, she appears to have inherited a folksy, Southern-steeped wit from her father, who once said: “A Republican in my state feels about as out of place as Michael Vick at the Westminster Dog Show.”

She quoted President Lyndon Johnson in a particularly tense interview this week with George Stephanopoulos: “If the president walked across the Potomac, the media would be reporting that he could not swim.”

On the other hand, she’s got a Trump-like bite.

On Friday when a reporter at the daily briefing cited a new Politico report saying the administration would “gut” the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Sanders snipped: “Never use Politico for a source for your story.”

At Wednesday’s briefing, Sanders suggested that Hillary Clinton would have fired Comey “immediately” if she had won the election. “Thank God she didn’t,” she cracked.

8. She once complimented Barack Obama

In 2010 Time named her one of their 40 Under 40 notables. In the accompanying interview she applauded president Obama’s efforts on behalf of broken families.

“America needs more fathers taking an active role in their children’s lives,” she told Time. “Kids who are the victims of broken families are more likely to end up in poverty, rehab, or jail.

“I’m a Republican, but I respect President Obama for setting the right example and addressing this problem. I hope more people will join him in his efforts.”

9. She is a fantasy football fan.

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