MIKE HUCKABEE was born in Hope, Arkansas, and graduated from Ouachita Baptist University. He became governor of Arkansas in July 1996 when his predecessor resigned, becoming one of the youngest governors in the country at the time. Huckabee was elected to a full four-year term as governor in 1998 and was reelected in November 2002. He pushed through education reforms in Arkansas that significantly expanded the availability of college scholarships, increased the number of charter schools, and established new approaches to workforce education. His Smart Start and Smart Step initiatives placed a heavy emphasis on reading and mathematics for students from kindergarten through the eighth grade, and since their creation student scores on standardized tests have risen steadily. Huckabee was also a leader in improving health care, creating the ARKids First program to extend health insurance coverage to tens of thousands of children, and leading a ballot initiative that devoted all of the state’s tobacco settlement money to improving the health of Arkansans. He led the Healthy Arkansas campaign, which received nationwide attention for its emphasis on changing the unhealthy behaviors of Arkansas residents.
In 1996, Huckabee led the fight for Amendment 75 to the Arkansas Constitution, which created a sales tax that funded one of the finest systems of state parks in the country and a system of state-of-the-art nature centers. Known as the “highway governor,” he led the campaign for a 1999 bond issue to rehabilitate the state’s system of crumbling interstate highways. Huckabee also won passage of the first major, broad-based tax cuts in state history; led efforts to establish a Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights; and created a welfare reform program that reduced the welfare rolls in the state by almost 50 percent. He is a former chairman of the Southern Governors’ Association, the Southern Growth Policies Board, the Southern Technology Council and the Southern International Trade Council. Huckabee chairs the Education Commission of the States and is the immediate past president of the Council of State Governments. Huckabee served as chair of the National Governors Association from 2005 to 2006, overseeing the initiative “Healthy America: Wellness Where We Live, Work and Learn.”
He and his wife, Janet, have three grown children: John Mark, David, and Sarah. Huckabee enjoys hunting, fishing, reading, and playing bass guitar in his band, Capitol Offense.