Improper Relationship Threatens Dustin McDaniel's Bid for Governor

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 4:54 pm  

A day after Dustin McDaniel admitted to the relationship with Andrea L. Davis, his campaign offered few details about the duration or nature of their contact.

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's admitted inappropriate relationship with a Hot Springs attorney - and questions about the impact it had on a lawsuit his office defended for the state - throws uncertainty into a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination that his campaign had just days before suggested was his to lose.

A day after McDaniel admitted to the relationship with Andrea L. Davis, his campaign offered few details Wednesday about the duration or nature of their contact. McDaniel admitted to the relationship after a sexual affair between the two was alleged in documents filed in a custody dispute between Davis and her ex-husband.

Davis, who has said her attorneys have advised her to not comment, did not return calls Wednesday morning. She represented a group of parents who successfully challenged the state's school choice law, a case in which McDaniel's office represented state education officials.

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McDaniel, who has been married since 2009, is the only announced candidate for the 2014 governor's race and has raised more than $1 million for the bid. His admission to the relationship came just days after his campaign touted internal polling that showed the attorney general with a strong lead over potential rivals for the party's nomination.

"We are off to a strong start," McDaniel said in a fundraising email to supporters last week. "A lot will happen over the next two years and it is critical that we have the resources to make our case and turn back the inevitable attacks to come."

Political observers say the disclosure raises the likelihood that McDaniel will have to contend with a heated fight for his party's nomination. He already faced the likelihood of an uphill general election fight, after Republicans took over the state Legislature in last month's election. Several Republicans, including former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, are considering a run for the state's top office.

"This does seem to make it all but certain that he'll have primary opposition and maybe a decent amount of it," said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College who has been active with the Democratic Party.

McDaniel's two chief rivals for the Democratic nomination have so far held off on targeting McDaniel over the relationship. Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter declined to comment on the revelation this week, while former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter was on vacation and unavailable.

"His level of interest remains the same and it's serious," Halter spokesman Bud Jackson said.

McDaniel's campaign refused to answer questions about the length or nature of his relationship with Davis and said he hoped voters would accept his apology.

"It is Dustin's hope that he will be judged on the totality of his record of accomplishments for the state," spokeswoman Tricia Wallace said.



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