Arkansas Candidates Already Preparing for 2014 Races

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 1:54 pm  

Democrat Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced over the summer that he was running for governor and has already raised more than $1 million for his bid. But his race is likely to get crowded in the coming weeks.

Curtis Coleman, the founder of a food safety company, said he's contacting donors about a potential run for the Republican nomination and will make a decision sometime next year. Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr said he's also considering a run and planned to commission a poll to see how much support he may have for the race.

"I seriously want the Republican, whoever that person is, to win the office," Darr said. "If it's not me, I just have to be convinced that person could win in the general election for me not to run."

McDaniel is also likely to face a primary fight for the state's top office. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is considering running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, as is businessman and Highway Commission member John Burkhalter. Neither has given a timeline on when they'd decide on a run.

Pryor's re-election bid will likely be one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, especially after the GOP succeeded in unseating Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln two years ago. Even though he's already announced his re-election, Pryor said he's trying to focus on his job more than the campaign.

"People need to catch their breath after this cycle," Pryor told reporters on a recent conference call.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, the Republican viewed by Democrats and many within his party as the most likely to challenge Pryor, said he's focused on his job in Congress after winning re-election and is committed to securing a spot on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Griffin is one of the potential candidates Republican party figures others are watching closely before making a decision about 2014. Darr has said he wants to see whether U.S. Rep. Steve Womack makes a bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination before making his own decision. A spokeswoman for Womack said the northwest Arkansas lawmaker is focusing on his job and not the next election.

Republicans are also closely watching U.S. Rep.-elect Tom Cotton, who has been mentioned as a potential candidate for statewide office. Cotton said he's focusing on his transition into Congress, but wouldn't completely rule out a run for another office eventually.

The jockeying for 2014 races is trickling down to lower-ticket races. Democrats hold four of the seven constitutional offices, and Republicans say they believe they can sweep all of them in the election. Aside from the governor's office, the attorney general and treasurer's office will be open because of term limits preventing the incumbents from seeking re-election.

Rep. Darrin Williams of Little Rock, Sen. Robert Thompson of Paragould and University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Chancellor Chris Thomason say they're considering running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, but insist a decision is a long ways away. Saline County Treasurer Dennis Milligan, former chairman of the state GOP, said he's preparing for a likely run for the state treasurer's office.

Secretary of State Mark Martin is planning on running for re-election, as is fellow Republican Land Commissioner John Thurston, their offices said.

State Auditor Charlie Daniels, a Democrat, said he hasn't decided whether to run for re-election, and Republican Rep. Andrea Lea of Russellville said she's looking at running for the office.

Democrat Mike Malone, president of the Northwest Arkansas Council and a member of the lottery commission, said he's looking primarily at a potential run for lieutenant governor or secretary of state.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.) 



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