LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A gun-rights advocate who declared her firing range "Muslim-free" said Tuesday she's exploring challenging Arkansas' governor in the state's Republican primary next year.
Jan Morgan, 54, owner of the Gun Cave Indoor Firing Range in Hot Springs, said she's forming an exploratory committee for next year's governor's race and will soon launch a listening tour around the state. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who was first elected in 2014, announced in May he was seeking re-election.
In a Facebook post announcing the exploratory committee, Morgan criticized Hutchinson as someone who "campaigns like a conservative Republican but governs like a liberal Democrat." Morgan said she did not have a set timeframe for making a decision on whether to run.
"People have by the thousands come to me and said you're the only person with a large enough base to do something about the problems we're having in our state and to deal with the establishment Republican Party that is not listening to the needs of the people," Morgan told The Associated Press.
Morgan, who appears frequently on cable television as a commentator, in 2014 said her gun range would be a "Muslim-free zone" because of safety concerns. At the time, she said she viewed Islam as a "theocracy/terrorist organization, not a religion." Morgan said Tuesday that decision is still in effect.
Morgan criticized Hutchinson for, among other things, his push to keep the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion. More than 300,000 people are covered through the program, which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. Morgan said her exploratory committee would offer details later on what she would propose doing with the expansion program. She also singled out his opposition to legislation restricting which restrooms transgender people could use.
Morgan appeared before legislative committees earlier this year to oppose a measure exempting college sporting events from a new law expanding where concealed handguns are allowed. The Legislature approved the stadium exemption and Hutchinson signed it into law after the Southeastern Conference and other athletic groups urged them to make the exception. She also supported legislation that stalled before a committee allowing someone to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, a right she argues the state's constitution already allows.
Hutchinson's campaign did not directly respond to Morgan's criticism. Hutchinson in July reported having more than $1.1 million in the bank for his re-election bid. So far, no Democrats have announced they're running against Hutchinson.
"We recognize that with 2018 being an election year there might be opposition and folks will consider and explore a run for political office. Explorations will happen, it is a normal part of the political process," Jon Gilmore, Hutchinson's chief political strategist, said in an email.
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