Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter is dropping out of the Democratic race for Arkansas governor next year. He made the announcement Monday in an email to supporters.
Spokesman Bud Jackson says the decision was made because Halter would have faced a tough challenge from former Congressman Mike Ross.
"When he first got in this race, it was only him and now we have a stronger candidate in Mike Ross who has done a better job in raising money and Bill decided he didn't want to put the party through a divisive primary and he would gracefully bow out," Jackson said.
Halter announced he was running for governor in January, the same day Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced he was dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination.
Jackson refused to speculate on whether Halter is considering running for a different office.
Halter was elected lieutenant governor in 2006 and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate four years later.
Below is the email Halter sent to supporters:
By a combination of work, luck, and your support, I have benefited from great opportunities. About half of my career has been spent in the private sector working with innovative companies and the other half in public service including in the White House Budget Office, as the Chief Operating Officer of Social Security, and as Lieutenant Governor. None of these opportunities could have happened without help from some of you and some of these opportunities could not have happened without help from almost all of you. I am grateful to you.
I believe that we ought to be a society where everyone has the chance to live up to their God-given potential. We can’t guarantee that everyone will succeed, but we can guarantee that everyone will have an opportunity to succeed if they work hard and they’re responsible.
That's why I entered the race for Governor of Arkansas. Our campaign plan was to advance a set of ideas to move our state forward in education while creating jobs and improving living standards -- all without raising taxes and while making state government operate more efficiently. Our first proposal, The Arkansas Promise, would provide full tuition for higher education for those who earn it and builds on the great success of the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship program. Thanks to the help and support of Arkansans, we passed a constitutional amendment creating the scholarship lottery that to date has provided over 100,000 scholarships totaling over $300 million without raising taxes. You have demonstrated that big improvements are possible.
But since we announced our gubernatorial campaign another strong candidate has entered the primary election and in order to avoid a divisive primary and to help unite the Democratic Party, I am ending my campaign for Governor. I congratulate Mike Ross on a great start to his campaign and I will be working hard to elect him and other Democratic nominees for office in the coming election.
While this is a disappointing outcome for our campaign today, Shantu and I choose to focus on the many positives that you have provided us for years. For example, because of your overwhelming vote in 2008, thousands of students who never considered college an option are now pursuing opportunities to achieve a better future for themselves, their families, and our entire state. Because of your compassion and energy, over 1000 volunteers came together to provide a free health clinic to Arkansans.
We have been very fortunate to have the dedication of extraordinarily talented and hard working teams both on our campaigns and while in office. They tirelessly and effectively pushed for policies and ideals to advance our state. We are profoundly grateful to the thousands of Arkansans from every part of the state who have provided encouragement and endorsed our candidacy. Over 2500 people from all 75 Arkansas counties have volunteered for our campaign. We will never forget all you have done on our behalf. I ask you to remain engaged and continue to devote your efforts to improving Arkansas and America. Shanti and I are proud to be raising our daughters here and we’ll continue to do all we can to build a brighter future for them and for all Arkansans.
UPDATE: Mike Ross says he spoke with Halter today about his decision and said he hopes that Halter will continue pursuing public service. Halter's spokesman refused to speculate on rumors that Halter is considering other positions to run for, including the second district congressional seat held by Republican Tim Griffin.
Halter's exit leaves Ross as the only announced Democratic candidate for next year’s race for governor.
Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson says he believes the differences between himself and Ross will become clearer to voters.
State Representative Debra Hobbs and Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman showed no signs of dropping out of the Republican gubernatorial race over similar concerns about a divisive primary on the GOP side.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.