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Preacher Huckabee 

The best young politician in the Baptist brotherhood adapts his pulpit skill to challenge Dale Bumpers.

click to enlarge Mike Huckabee as a young politician image
  • Mark Morgan
  • Mike Huckabee says the Baptist Church taught him hard-fisted politics.

He's from Hope. He's a well-known Southern Baptist. He' s articulate and fairly nice-looking. He' s a young man in a hurry, to borrow a phrase.

He swept through his undergraduate college work in a little more than two years, doubling up to save money because his parents weren't well-off and he had to work his way through college doing radio shows and providing play-by-play for high school sports events, his first passion and calling.

He was smart enough to graduate magna cum laude, though not from an Eastern school, but from Ouachita Baptist University. He was elected governor of Arkansas Boys State by a margin that he says was the biggest in the history of the program.

Another Bill Clinton? In a way, yes. In a big way, no.

He's Mike Huckabee, 36, a bit paunchy and soft-looking, but ever-pleasant. He' s a Baptist preacher turned Republican politician, which is not a severe turn, certainly not in his case, and he wants to unseat U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers this fall.

He met Bumpers in 1972. He was 16 and governor of Boys State; Bumpers was the real governor. Depending on how the race tums out, that meeting two decades ago may take on mythical, generational proportions akin to Clinton' s shaking hands with John F. Kennedy at Boys Nation in 1963. Bumpers, you see, encouraged the young man to consider a career in politics, a noble profession.

Huckabee went the route of the Baptist ministry, via Southwestern seminary in Fort Worth. He preached at the Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, where, in 1985, he baptized the first black member and stood his ground when eight other members walked out. He preached for six years at the 2,500 member Beech Street Baptist Church in Texarkana until resigning this year to make the Senate race.

He continued his broadcasting career on the side — one that began at age 14 when he got his license from the Federal Communications Commission and went to work part-time as an announcer and control board operator at a Hope radio station. He has a radio voice with a preacher' s inflection. The young man definitely can talk.

The highlight of his life, he says, was doing the play-by-play radio call for a football game played in War Memorial Stadium. It was a couple of years ago when Texarkana, now his home, played for the state title.

Today he owns a communications company that operates a non-profit, interdenominational cable television network emphasizing religious, community and sports programming in Texarkana and Nashville, Ark. But he knew all along he would run for office.

"I, too, believe in a place called Hope," Huckabee tells about 30 supporters at the Western Sizzlin' in Monticello. "The difference between me and Bill Clinton is that I actually grew up in Hope."

Well, there are more differences than that. Clinton supports gay rights. Huckabee, who says he has counseled many people who came to him and thought they were homosexual, calls homosexuality "learned behavior." He says he tells gay-leaning people the same thing he tells men who come to him for counseling about extra-marital sexual urges. "You've got to control yourself."

Clinton has emerged as the nation's great hope for continued abortion rights. Huckabee, while decrying the ''sloganeering" that dominates the abortion debate on both sides and saying he opposes the tactics of Operation Rescue, says abortion is wrong and that Roe vs. Wade needs to berepealed because the U.S. Supreme Court contrived a right of privacy to protect it.

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