Asa Hutchinson, a Republican candidate for Governor, was in Paris last Friday at a fund raiser held in the historic Park Hill home of Chester Koprovic.
Hutchinson, who has served as a member of Congress, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and with the Department of Homeland Security, is making his first political race since 2006 when he was defeated in the Governor’s race by Democrat Mike Beebe.
Hutchinson said this time things are different.
“The politics of Arkansas are different,” he said. “We’ve turned into much more of a Republican state. We have a Republican Legislature and a Republican delegation to Congress. My politics haven’t changed. The state’s politics have changed.”
Hutchinson also said that although he’s been out of politics for eight years, he still has a “passion for making a difference.”
“This is a great opportunity to work on job creation and other things I’m very passionate about,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said job creation in Arkansas can be advanced by making the state’s income tax rates more competitive with surrounding states. Arkansas’ top tax rate is 7 percent and some states surrounding Arkansas have 5 percent or no state income tax, he said.
“My plan is to reduce the rate by 1 percent on those making between $20,000 and $75,000 first,” he said. “That’s the start. Down the road, I want to reduce it for higher income wage earners who are the job creators, but we’re going to do it for the middle class first.”
Another area mentioned by Hutchinson is improving the quality of education in Arkansas.
“Within four years, I want to have computer science taught in every high school in Arkansas,” he said. “It’s taught in one out of 10 high schools nationwide. It’s a great opportunity for our students. Learning computer language will give them the ability to do computer programming and every industry needs that. Instead of lagging behind, we can lead the nation in this area and it’ll cost less than a half-million.”
Hutchinson also talked about strengthening job training programs for those who decide not to attend college.
“We want to give those students a good career path,” he said. “That’s important in recruiting industries.”
As for his campaign, Hutchinson said he was pleased with the amount of money he’s raised (about $2 million) but will need to raise more.
“It’s challenging all across the board in terms of financing these campaigns,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with what we’ve raised.”
Hutchinson will face Curtis Coleman in the May 20 GOP primary.