Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, officially ended his bid to become the state's next Governor on Friday. In a message to supporters, McDaniel said he is proud of his record in the legislature and as AG, but now believes he would have a tough time winning the 2014 gubernatorial race.
"I am now convinced that if I run for Governor, this campaign would be about me personally, rather than Arkansas's future,” said McDaniel.
Earlier this month, McDaniel admitted to having an extramarital affair with Andrea Davis, a Hot Springs attorney. Davis was the opposing counsel in five cases handled by McDaniel's office.
In a press conference to clear up rumors about the affair, McDaniel clarified that while he is ashamed of his actions; the affair was a personal mistake and did not involve the use of state resources, finances, or employees. He also said no ethics rules were violated and litigation was never compromised by the relationship.
Since news of the affair went public, McDaniel’s approval rating has slipped in several political polls.
In his email to supporters explaining the immediate exit from the campaign trail, McDaniel said not running in 2014 is the best decision for the state.
“When it comes to our economy, our infrastructure and our schools Arkansas is at a crossroads. I believe that we need a visionary to lead our state forward on these critical issues. Arkansas deserves a campaign that will focus on those issues, so I believe it’s in the best interests of my family, our state and the Democratic Party for me to not run for Governor,” continued McDaniel.
Now, former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014. A spokesman announced Friday that Halter would file paperwork next week to make his bid for the state's top office.
Halter's announcement came moments after McDaniel decided to drop out of the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Political analyst Hal Bass from Ouachita Baptist University says the new developments change the dynamics of the race.
“Well, I think this is a very big shakeup. I do think even with his recent troubles Attorney General McDaniel remained a strong candidate for the Democratic nomination and with him out of the race I think it opens it up considerably,” said Bass. “I think former Lt. Gov. Halter does bring a lot of name recognition and some financial resources into the arena, but I doubt at this point he could clear the field the way Attorney General McDaniel appeared poised to do. I would think it would be a much more wide open race now.”
Halter was elected lieutenant governor in 2006 and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Blanche Lincoln in 2010. Halter, a former Clinton administration official, championed the constitutional amendment voters approved in 2008 to create a state-run lottery for college scholarships.