Mike Huckabee launches second White House bid

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee AP

Mike HuckabeeAP

Mike Huckabee

Updated: 10:55 a.m. CDT

HOPE, Ark. — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has declared his candidacy for president in the hometown he shares with former President Bill Clinton – Hope, Arkansas. It’s his second run for the Republican nomination.

He told supporters at his Hope rally on Tuesday: “It would be perfectly fitting that I would announce here that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America.”

In a strategy aimed at working-class cultural conservatives, Huckabee and his aides say his second run would pitch the candidate as an economic populist and foreign affairs hawk who holds deeply conservative views on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Huckabee, 59, also plans to pitch that he is the best Republican to take on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination who spent more than a decade as first lady of Arkansas.

So far in this campaign, Huckabee stands apart from most rivals in squarely taking on gay rights advocates.

He’s criticized the “militant gay community” and its opposition to “religious liberty” laws in Indiana and Arkansas. “It won’t stop,” Huckabee said, “until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel, and I’m talking now about the unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.”

In a conference call with conservative pastors last month, organized by the anti-gay Family Research Council, Huckabee let loose with a litany of falsehoods about how marriage equality will lead to the “criminalization of Christianity” and demanded that states simply defy the Supreme Court if it strikes down bans on same-sex marriage.

The former governor predicted that the government will bring “criminal charges” against those who oppose gay rights and pastors who preach against same-sex marriage.

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Huckabee also defended gay-to-straight conversion therapy, claiming that the government is barring chaplains from telling those they counsel to “seek assistance” for a “homosexual lifestyle.”

Earlier this year, Huckabee said being gay is akin to choosing to drink alcohol or use profanity — lifestyle choices he says are appealing to others but not to him.

Huckabee is the third major Republican to enter the race this week. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former technology executive Carly Fiorina launched their campaigns Monday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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