Asa Hutchinson, who’s lost statewide races in Arkansas twice previously, announced Saturday that he’d be a candidate for governor in the Republican primary in 2006. Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller has already announced. He only recently stepped down from a job at the federal Homeland Security Department to take a job for a firm that lobbies Homeland Security and to move back to Arkanas to explore a political race.
(In an unrelated development, word circulated Saturday that the ultraconservative Sen. Jim Holt, who piled up a surprising vote against Sen. Blanche Lincoln last year, was formally announcing his Republican candidacy for lieutenant governor next year.)
Families and friends encouraged him, he said. His news release said, in part:

Asa Hutchinson today announced his intention to run for Governor of Arkansas. Hutchinson, a native of Benton County, sent a letter this week to committee members of the Arkansas Republican Party informing them of his decision.
Hutchinson said he would begin the process of establishing a campaign team next week. A formal and official announcement launching the campaign will be made at a later date.
“I’m running for Governor, and I am committed to winning this race,” said Hutchinson. “A lifetime of experience has taught me that leadership makes a difference. I’m ready to lead Arkansas into the future with a positive, hopeful vision based on the conservative values we share.”
This past month, Hutchinson wrapped up his service as President Bush’s point man for securing the nation’s borders against illegal drugs and international terrorism. After four years of service to the President, Hutchinson announced that he and his wife Susan would be returning home to Arkansas to be closer to family and to start a new consulting business in Little Rock.
“We’ve sought out views on this race from friends, leaders, and voters from all over Arkansas,” said Hutchinson. “We’ve been both humbled and gratified at the tremendous amount of encouragement we’ve received. We’re excited. And we’re going to run a great campaign for Arkansas focused on our future.”

Hutchinson notified party leaders in advance with a letter Thursday.
Late in the week, Rockefeller supporters were already at work compiling talking points against Hutchinson, including his relatively moderate stance on illegal immigrants. Harsh anti-illegal rhetoric has proved productive in the Third District, a Republican stronghold that is generally expected to decide the primary race.
The race will pit strong elements of the GOP against each other. The Huckabee camp is expected to support, at least quietly, Rockefeller.
Though Hutchinson was easily elected Third District congressman, he’s lost races for Senate against Dale Bumpers and against Winston Bryant for attorney general.