Asa Hutchinson Dale Bumpers image

  • John McDermott
  • ASA!: At 35.

I was cleaning my office yesterday and happened on a copy of the 1986 Best and Worst edition of Arkansas Times. From back in our monthly days. Former Razorback great Mike Conley and a young woman snuggled up to what is billed as the state’s “best lamb” are on the cover.


Even better, inside I found this gem: A profile of a 35-year-old Asa Hutchinson at the start of his Senate campaign against Dale Bumpers. He would go on to lose by a wide margin, of course. The article’s by the great Mike Trimble. Here’s a snippet to give you a sense of how long ago 1986 was:

There is going to be another factor in this race, too, and it will be interesting, if painful, to see it develop. It is, simply, the fact that Hutchinson is of, if not officially running as, a bona fide member of the religious right, and it is hard to figure out just how much this will count for or against him. It is doubtful that Bumpers, always in the past a high-minded campaigner, will openly make an issue of this, but then, he won’t have to; it is already out there on the record: the fundamentalist religious affiliation; the Bob Jones connection; the children in the church school; the support of the Johnson clan; the anti-abortion, pro-school prayer stance; and a propensity during his tenure as U. S. attorney to couch his law-enforcement efforts as a holy crusade to a degree that startled and alarmed even the law-and-order-minded federal agents who worked with him.

For his part, Hutchinson is fighting the image as strongly as he can. In his favor is the prosecution of the far-right [Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord]. He brings it up in every speech, and reminds his listeners that the CSA was a group that “would tread on the rights of minority groups through intimidation and violence.” He studiously avoids religious references in his speeches. In a February appearance before law students in Little Rock, he made an offhand reference to an illegal alien apprehended on the Mexican border with no possessions save “a little red Bible” and then seemed consciously to haul himself up, assuring the students that “my only point is that she came into this country with virtually nothing but the promise of a better life.” To a man with religious convictions as deep as Hutchinson’s it must seem ironic, if not downright unfair, to have to be so careful about references to the deity.

“Yes,” he said in an interview, “my religious faith is the most important thing in the world to me. It affects everything I do, and it should. But I do not ask anyone to share my religious beliefs. My campaign will stand on the governmental and political issues. It will appeal to a broad range of voters.” (Indeed, there are a few surprises, though not many, as Hutchinson answers questions about potential issues. For example, despite the orthodoxy of the right, and despite the fact that his children attend a secular private school, Hutchinson says he is opposed to tuition tax credits for private education. “I’m against it both philosophically and on the basis of economics,” he said. “I am firmly committed to public education. As a parent, I simply wanted my children to have a Christian education, and I think I have that right. I am running on basic political issues, not theology.”)

Read the whole thing here.