BENTONVILLE, Ark. – A former Arkansas governor threw his hat in the presidential candidate ring Wednesday.

Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in an event in Bentonville, where he was born and launched his political career.

Hutchinson outlined his platform, pledging that “leadership, economic growth and respect for the rule of law” would be significant under his presidency.

While calling for crime reduction, Hutchinson took his first swipe at Pres. Joe Biden.

“The Biden Administration has stood on the sidelines and passively watched as rampant crime destroys our cities with smash-and-grab robberies and a flagrant disrespect for human dignity and the rule of law,” he said. “This must change.”

Hutchinson touted his law enforcement experience while calling for accountability for lawbreakers. Border security was also listed as a focal point, as was a call to “reform the focus of federal law enforcement.”

Hutchinson’s economic plans began with the importance of work, including a note about student loans.

“In law school, I benefitted from the federal student loan program. And, yes, I paid my loan off!” he said.

Hutchinson added that his plan includes workforce training with policies that would not “reward those who sit at home when they have the ability to work and provide for themselves.”

“As governor, I turned down federal assistance that discouraged a return to work. But the Biden Administration paid people more benefits to stay home than they could make working,” he said. “This is wrong.”

A new proposal from Hutchinson addressed workers over 62 and their ability to earn income while not affecting their Social Security compensation. Those workers should be able to draw Social Security while earning a wage, he said. 

“Right now, if you retire on Social Security, you are penalized for continuing to work. You should be able to both claim social security and work,” he said. “Remove the penalties and let those who want to work continue to do so without government penalties.”

Encouraging seniors to draw wages would help provide needed workers, he said. Hutchinson also took time here to assure the solidarity and continued support of Social Security and Medicare.

Hutchinson spoke about his record on computer science training in Arkansas and how he intends to bring that to America. The program’s successful expansion led to the state going from 1,100 computer science students to 23,000, he said.

“The result is that Arkansas led the nation in computer science education and made a real difference in the opportunities for young people,” the former governor said.

The candidate clarified why America needs more and better computer training and STEM education.

“It is critical that we follow this model as a nation if we are going to compete with Communist China,” he said.

Hutchinson did take time to demonstrate his conservative bona fides with his small government record as governor.

“Too often, our businesses and families are held back by a federal bureaucracy that is out of control, heavy-handed and wasteful. As president, I will reduce the federal civilian workforce by 10%!” he said, adding, “In Arkansas, I reduced the state executive workforce by 14%.”

Hutchinson also called for a reduction in the federal debt, invoking the slogan “Debt Free in ’33” as a goal.

The former governor concluded his candidacy speech with a hopeful and collaborative note.

“We have learned that in times of turmoil, uncertainty, and division, America has always benefited from leaders who challenge us and give us hope,” he said. “I am confident that America is ready to seek new frontiers; and that we are ready to channel the restless waves of our democracy into more freedom and more prosperity for those who follow after us.”

Hutchinson is the fifth Republican to announce their presidential campaign. The Republican and Democrat parties are currently fielding eight candidates for the 2024 election.

Hutchinson is generally considered a long shot, polling well behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not declared for the race.