Sarah Huckabee Sanders names transition team members

By: - November 10, 2022 2:06 pm

The Arkansas PBS debate between candidates for Arkanasa Governor was held Friday morning October 21 at the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall, on the University of Central Arkansas campus in Conway. Republican candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders. John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate – 102122

Arkansas Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday announced that Little Rock attorney Kevin Crass would lead her transition team.

The transition team also includes a number of political veterans from Arkansas and some former staffers who worked with Sanders in the Trump White House.

Sanders on Thursday also announced a transition website.

Crass is a partner at Friday, Eldredge & Clark, and he has represented a number of state constitutional officers, including Sanders’ father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, since 1997, according to his biography.

“Kevin brings significant knowledge and relationships to this role, and I have complete confidence in his abilities to help me be ready to assume the role of governor on day one and begin taking our state to the top,” Sanders said in a statement. “Kevin will also be assisted in this important work by several individuals who were a part of our historic victory on election night and who bring their own incredible experiences and expertise. There is a lot of work to do and a short time to do it, but this team will get it done.”

Sanders, the former White House press secretary for President Donald Trump, defeated Democrat Chris Jones and Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, she met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who was term-limited, to begin discussing the transition, which will be the first handoff between two Republican governors in Arkansas since Civil War Reconstruction.

Sanders will take office in January.

The transition team

Kevin Crass

Executive Director Kevin A. Crass is a senior partner in the Litigation Practice Group at Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP in Little Rock. He focuses his practice on significant, complex business litigation in federal and state court. Kevin has extensive experience in handling the defense of national and state class actions in state and federal courts. Kevin also provides clients with representation before governmental bodies and counsels them in regulatory matters. Kevin has served as personal counsel to several of the state’s constitutional officers. A 1981 graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and a 1984 graduate of the UA Little Rock School of Law, he previously served on the Board of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Bar Association. He also previously served on the Federal Practice Committee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, having been appointed by the judges in that district. He also currently serves on the Board of Visitors of the UA Little Rock, chair of the War Memorial Stadium Commission, and past chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Special Advisor Chris Caldwell served as the campaign manager for Sanders’ campaign for governor. He is the former federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. A Bryant native and graduate of the University of Arkansas, he worked for Arkansas U.S. Senator John Boozman  from 2010 to 2018 and managed his 2016 re-election campaign. Caldwell also served on former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid and then-U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson’s 2002 campaign.

Deputy Director Gretchen Conger joined Sanders’ campaign as a senior advisor after serving as deputy chief of staff to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, where she was responsible for budget, policy and legislative affairs. Prior to her 7-year tenure with Ducey, Conger worked on multiple issue-based and candidate-based campaigns in Arizona.

Deputy Director Andrew “Vu” Ritchie, who most recently served as general counsel to the Sanders  campaign, brings years of legal, legislative and political experience at both the national and state levels. Ritchie is a Little Rock native and graduate of the University of Arkansas Walton School of Business and received his Juris Doctorate from the William H. Bowen School of Law. Before joining the campaign, he worked for Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton as the senior advisor for domestic policy. During his time in Washington, D.C., Ritchie also served in the Trump Administration at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid as senior advisor in the Office of Administrator Seema Verma. Before moving to Washington, Ritchie served as legal counsel and senior advisor to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Communications Director Judd P. Deere served in the same capacity in the Sanders campaign. He is a former White House deputy press secretary for President Donald J. Trump and brings more than a decade of political communications experience at both the national and state levels. Before returning to Arkansas this summer, Deere served as deputy chief of staff to Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee. He has also worked for Boozman and U.S.  Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, as well as Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Deere is a Benton native and graduate of Lyon College.

External Affairs Director Jordan Powell, who served as deputy campaign manager for Sanders’ campaign, is a campaign strategist who has served as a consultant, communications advisor, ad maker, and digital expert for gubernatorial, congressional, state house and issue campaigns across the country. He has also served as a press secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. In 2016, Powell served as deputy campaign manager for former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign.

Legislative Director Jamie Barker joins the transition team after serving as political director on Sanders’ campaign. He was born and raised in Smackover and has worked on campaigns for Cotton, Hutchinson and Huckabee’s 2016 presidential campaign. Barker has also previously served as political director for the Republican Party of Arkansas. He is a past chairman of the Arkansas Federation of Young Republicans and past member of the state party’s executive committee. He is a political consultant with the Arkansas-based firm, JCD Consulting.

Policy Director Jack Sisson, who served as a policy advisor on the Sanders campaign, is a public affairs professional and consultant with more than 15 years of experience at the state and federal levels. In Washington, D.C., he served as health policy advisor to Boozman and aide to then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. Sisson also worked as an advisor to Huckabee when he was governor and as campaign manager for Arkansas U.S. Rep. French Hill.

Boards & Commissions Director Alex Flemister joins the transition after serving as director of operations on Sanders’ campaign. He has spent his career in both the public and private sectors. Before joining the campaign, Flemister served as associate director for the White House Office of Public Liaison under Trump where he was the liaison for the business, veteran and AAPI communities. He is a Little Rock native and a graduate of the University of Arkansas.

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Hunter Field, Arkansas Advocate
Hunter Field, Arkansas Advocate

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. He spent the better part of the last decade investigating and reporting on Arkansas government and politics. For three years, he covered education policy, medical marijuana and the Arkansas General Assembly as part of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Capitol Bureau. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. Hunter got his start in journalism covering sports for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.

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