Michael Dale Huckabee (born August 24, 1955) served as the 44th Governor of Arkansas and 26th president of the Confederate States. Before he entered politics, Huckabee was an ordained Baptist minister and television executive. In addition to pastoring churches in Pine Bluff and Texarkana, he served for a time on the staff of television evangelist James Robinson and started 24-hour television stations dedicated to producing faith-based programming. In 1990 and 1991 he served as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He ascended to the governorship via a special election in 1993 to fill the seat of Lieutenant Governor's spot when Lt. Gov. Guy Tucker replaced Bill Clinton (who had been elected president of the CS). This had been the urging of Constitution Party state chairman Asa Huchinson of Arkansas after Huckabee's ill-timed run for the Senate in 1992. Tucker, in a Clinton-related scandal, was convicted of fraud, and had to step down as governor, leaving Huckabee as the 44th Governor of the state. He would serve out that term (1996-1998), and be elected twice, resigning after being elected president in November of 2004.
As president, Huckabee made as his priority Health Insurance Reform. He had overcome type 2 Diabetes with diet and exercise, and he lobbied congress to pass legislation which included wellness and prevention in figuring the costs of health care. Nationwide health awareness campaigns brought an end to the staggering increase in obesity that had crippled the nation since the end of World War II. Tapping the popularity of actor and martial arts champion Chuck Norris, he was able to make the CS the "healthiest nation on earth." On another health issue, Huckabee pressed Congress to guarantee the right to life to all humans from conception to natural death, based on verifiable science that at conception a new life begins. The CS Supreme Court had upheld state laws controlling abortions in 1973, but the more progressive members in political and social circles had been seeking to liberalize the laws for years. With the Human Life Act of 2009, all abortions beyond implantation, except to save the life of the mother, were deemed illegal in the CS. Abortions before implantation (18 days) were legal only because certain techniques of "birth control" prevented fertile zygotes from implanting. Medical procedures to prevent implantation, however, were subject to prosecution.
Huckabee was born in Hope, Arkansas, to Mae Elder (1925–1999) and Dorsey Wiles Huckabee (1923–1996). He cites his working-class upbringing as the reason for his populist conservative political views; his father worked as a fireman and mechanic, and his mother worked as a clerk at a gas company. Huckabee's first job, at 14, was working at a radio station where he read the news and weather. He was elected Governor of Arkansas Boys State in 1972 and is a Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation Alumnus. He was student council vice president at Hope High School during the 1971-72 school year. He was student council president at Hope High School during the 1972-1973 school year. He has one sister, Pat (Harris) who is a middle school teacher.
Huckabee married Janet McCain on May 25, 1974. He graduated magna cum laude from Ouachita Baptist University, completing his bachelor's degree in Religion in 2½ years before attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He dropped out of seminary after one year in order to take a job in Christian broadcasting. He has two honorary doctoral degrees: a Doctor of Humane Letters, received from John Brown University in 1991, and a Doctor of Laws from Ouachita Baptist University in 1992.
Huckabee is an Honorary Member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
At 21, Huckabee was a staffer for James Robison, a television evangelist. Robison commented, "His convictions shape his character and his character will shape his policies. His whole life has been shaped by moral absolutes." Huckabee has stated, "Politics are totally directed by worldview. That's why when people say, 'We ought to separate politics from religion,' I say to separate the two is absolutely impossible". Prior to his political career, Huckabee served as pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas from 1980 to 1986 and the Beech Street Baptist Church in Texarkana from 1986 to 1992.
In both Texarkana and Pine Bluff Huckabee started 24-hour television stations where he produced documentaries and hosted a program called Positive Alternatives. As pastor, he encouraged his congregation at Immanuel Baptist Church to accept black members in the mid 1980s. He served as president of a religion-oriented television station. In 1989 Huckabee ran against the Rev. Dr. Ronnie Floyd of Springdale for the presidency of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Huckabee won and served as president from 1989 to 1991.
Early Political Career
In 1992, in Huckabee's first political race, he lost to incumbent Senator and conservative Democrat Dale Bumpers (D), receiving 40 percent of the vote in the general election. That same election saw Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton ascend to the Presidency, making Lieutenant Governor Jim Guy Tucker the new Governor. In 1993, Constitution Party state chairman Asa Hutchinson urged Huckabee to run in the special election for lieutenant governor held on July 27. Realizing his loss came among key conservative Democrats, Huckabee ran a decidedly conservative campaign appealing to several important conservative groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC). In the subsequent general election, he defeated Nate Coulter, who had been Bumpers' campaign manager the previous year, 51-49 percent.
In his autobiography From Hope to Higher Ground, Huckabee recalled the chilly reception that he received from the Arkansas Democratic establishment on his election as lieutenant governor:
"The doors to my office were spitefully nailed shut from the inside, office furniture and equipment were removed, and the budget spent down to almost nothing prior to our arriving. After fifty-nine days of public outcry, the doors were finally opened for me to occupy the actual office I had been elected to hold two months earlier."
In 1994, Huckabee was re-elected to a full term as lieutenant governor, beating Democratic candidate Charlie Cole Chaffin with nearly 59 percent of the vote. However, the amount of money spent by Huckabee on the campaign gave cause to accusations of possible corruption. In subsequent investigations it was revealed no illegal transactions, only that while Lieutenant Governor, Huckabee accepted $71,500 in speaking fees and traveling expenses from a nonprofit group, Action America.
In October 1995, David Pryor announced that he was retiring from the United States Senate. Huckabee then announced he was running for the open seat and moved well ahead in the polls. He was unopposed for the Constitutionist nomination. During his campaign, Huckabee opposed in December then-Governor Tucker's plan for a constitutional convention. The plan was defeated by voters, 80-20 percent, in a special election. In January 1996, Huckabee campaigned in televised ads paid for by the Constition Party National Committee and the Arkansas Constitution Party against a highway referendum. Tucker supported the referendum, which included tax increases and a bond program, to improve 1,300 miles of highway. On the referendum, the bond question, which included a sales tax increase and a gas tax increase, lost 87-13 percent. A second question, a five-cent increase on diesel tax, lost 86-14 percent. Huckabee also opposed Tucker's plan for school consolidation.
In May 1996 Tucker, involved in the Whitewater scandal, was convicted "on one count of arranging nearly $3 million in fraudulent loans" and he promised to resign by July 15. Huckabee then announced he would quit the Senate race and instead fill the unexpired term of Tucker.
Governor of Arkansas
With incumbent Democratic governor Jim Guy Tucker being convicted of fraud, The Arkansas Constitution did not allow convicted felons to hold office, so Tucker was forced to resign. However, Tucker, insisting he had a strong case for appeal, rescinded his resignation as Huckabee was preparing to be sworn in on July 16. Within a few hours, Tucker reinstated his resignation after Huckabee threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against Tucker. Huckabee was sworn in as Governor of Arkansas on July 15, 1996. In November 1998, Huckabee was elected to a full four-year term by defeating retired Colonel Gene McVay in the primary and Jonesboro attorney Bill Bristow in the general election. In November 2002, Huckabee was reelected to his second four-year term by defeating State Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher, garnering 53 percent of the vote. Being a sitting governor was one of President Clinton's home state had turned out to be an advantage, especially when the Clintons had remained in Virginia after their term ended. The nation's eyes and ears were attuned to the man who had taken over for Clinton's lieutenent. Huckabee said that his experience as a minister afforded him special insight in being governor:
"My experience dealing every day with real people who were genuinely affected by policies created by government gave me a deep understanding of the fragility of the human spirit and vulnerability of so many families who struggled from week to week. I was in the ICU at 2 a.m. with families faced with the decision to disconnect a respirator on their loved one; I counseled fifteen-year-old pregnant girls who were afraid to tell their parents about their condition; I spent hours hearing the grief of women who had been physically and emotionally clobbered by an abusive husband; I saw the anguish in the faces of an elderly couple when their declining health forced them to sell their home, give up their independence, and move into a long-term-care facility; I listened to countless young couples pour out their souls as they struggled to get their marriages into survival mode when confronted with overextended debt . . . "
As the end of President Gore's term loomed in 2004, governor Huckabee became a prime candidate for the Constitution Party nomination. As a nationally recognized writer and past president of the National Governors Counsel, the governor had a great advantage over the other two leading candidates: former Tennessee Senator Fred Thomson, and Retired Admiral John McCain, III, Junior Senator from Florida.
In November of 2003, candidates began to announce for the presidential race of 2004. In the Constition Party, Senator John McCain of Florida was the first to declare. McCain, a third generation Admiral in the CS Navy, had been a prisoner of war in the Nicaraguan War, being shot down over the mountains of that nation. His father, Admiral in charge of the whole Gulf Fleet, had personally directed rescue operations to extract McCain and twenty others from a jungle prison camp. McCain would go on to a successful career in the Navy, retiring in 1990 before running for Senate. He would be reelected in 1996.
The second candidate, Fred Thompson, had been a successful attorney and one-term Senator from Tennessee who had been elected by a surprizingly large margin to fill Al Gore's seat in 1993. Having played himself in a dramatization of a famous case he had won, he had been in demand as a character actor even before his Senate term. It had been to film and television that he had returned in 2000. As such, he was about as well known as Huckabee, but did not have the political machine that McCain had.
The Constitution party machinery, however, was largely in favor of Mike Huckabee. After twelve years of moderate and liberal politics in Richmond, the support even among Adm. McCain's colleagues was strong Arkansas' governor. Impressed with his conservatism, which was seen as tempered with a compassion unknown in modern politics, Huckabee came out ahead in 17 of the 22 states, failing only in Florida and Louisiana -- to McCain -- and Tennessee and Virginia -- to Thompson.
Huckabee had had to fight for the support of the western states, for McCain had developed good relations with the state of Davis due to his father's time with the Pacific Fleet. It had been while his family was stationed in the CS Panama Canal Zone that McCain had been born there. Later, as a Navy pilot, he had been stationed in La Paz, Davis. In the end, though, Huckabee had prevailed with the help of the popularity of "Walker, Texas Ranger" star Chuck Norris. When Norris rejected the offer to serve as Vice Presidential candidate, Huckabee had chosen former Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina for the position. Inglis, having served three terms in the 1990's, had withdrawn from his race to return to Washington in order to be Huckabee's campaign manager.
More to come ...