The controversial former White House press secretary shattered fundraising records in the first two months of her campaign

By Virginia Chamlee
April 19, 2021 12:56 PM
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Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
| Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Less than three months after announcing her Arkansas gubernatorial run, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has shattered a statewide record for fundraising, raking in $4.8 million in her first quarter as a candidate.

The controversial former White House press secretary, 38, announced her fundraising total in a release sent by her campaign on Thursday.

"I am grateful for the generous support of so many Arkansans – in 60 days we held over 50 events in Arkansas and received more than 6,500 donations across all 75 counties of the state," she said in the release.

According to her campaign, more than 34,700 donors contributed at an average amount of under $97 per donation (90 percent of the campaign's donations were for $100 or less).

As CBS News noted, Sanders raised more money in the first quarter than the $4.4 million that term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson raised throughout his entire 2014 race.

While the election remains more than a year away, Sanders' financial support indicates she will be a significant candidate in the field.

She announced her campaign in late January, with a video that drew heavily on her time in the administration of former President Donald Trump.

The daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee briefly mentioned the attack on the U.S. Capitol building by a mob of Trump supporters in the video but did not touch on the former president's role in urging on the march on the Capitol, for which he was impeached an unprecedented second time before leaving office.

Sanders was joined by Trump earlier this month for a maskless campaign event on April 9 in Florida, where Trump has been living since leaving the White House.

She tweeted her thanks to Trump for "hosting an amazing event" for her campaign.

The former president endorsed Sanders' bid for governor in January, issuing a statement in which he called her a "warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct."

Sanders served as Trump's White House press secretary until June 2019, previously taking over as deputy White House press secretary in January 2017, after Sean Spicer, Trump's first spokeswoman, abruptly left. 

Her time in the White House was marred by controversy — both for not holding regular press briefings or for making misleading statements, such as one about the FBI's support of James Comey, which she later claimed was a "slip of the tongue."

She was also in the headlines for the jokes about her character at the 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner — denounced by many Republicans as too personal — and, later that year, when a Virginia restaurant asked her to leave amid the backlash to Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.

Sanders joined Fox News as contributor in September 2019, though the network has since said that its agreement was terminated in light of her candidacy.

Last year, Sanders published a memoir about her time at the White House.

A staunch defender of Trump's in her role as White House spokeswoman, Sanders wrote in Speaking for Myself that he "isn't perfect" but said she supported his re-election bid.

Sanders' father, Mike Huckabee, served as the 44th governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and was a candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016.

Trump recently waded into Arkansas politics when he called Hutchinson a "lightweight RINO" (or "Republican In Name Only") after the Hutchinson governor vetoed a bill that would block medical services for transgender youth.

Lawmakers in the state ultimately overrode that veto.