The Arkansas coordinator for HuckPAC, Mike Huckabee’s political action committee, announced his resignation Tuesday, pointing to the recent controversy surrounding the former Arkansas governor’s commutation of Maurice Clemmons’ prison sentence.
The 37-year-old Clemmons was shot dead by a police officer in Seattle on Tuesday, after allegedly gunning down four Lakewood, Washington, police officers, triggering one of the state’s largest-ever manhunts. Clemmens had served only a fraction of a 108-year prison sentence in Arkansas before Gov. Mike Huckabee commuted his sentence.
“I resigned my position as Arkansas coordinator for HuckPAC today where I served in a volunteer capacity,” Arkansas HuckPAC coordinator Jason Tolbert wrote on his blog. “Some have asked about the timing. As most could imagine, the recent news of the last two days along with the response did play a role in this decision but was not the sole factor.”
Huckabee’s political future is in some doubt in the wake of the Washington state shooting. Huckabee had been considered one of the top candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Many commentators are now wondering whether Clemmons will become “Huckabee’s Willie Horton,” referring to the Massachusetts inmate whose rape and robbery spree during a weekend furlough damaged Michael Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign.
In a statement released Tuesday, Huckabee said he takes “full responsibility” for Clemmons’ commutation.
“I acted on the facts presented to me in 2000,” Huckabee said. “If I could have possibly known what Clemmons would do nine years later, I obviously would have made a different decision. But if the same file was presented to me today, I would have likely made the same decision.”
Huckabee has come under severe criticism from his conservative allies since the Washington state shooting, with even Rush Limbaugh echoing the “Willie Horton” comparison.
Two of Huckabee’s potential 2012 competitors — former New York Governor George Pataki and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawleny — have now made Huckabee’s supposed softness on crime a part of their political platform.