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.

The most immediate threat to McDaniel's political future stems from questions surrounding the impact that his relationship with Davis had on the school choice case the state lost earlier this year.

In June, a federal judge struck down the law, saying race couldn't be the only factor considered in deciding whether students could transfer between districts. Arkansas is appealing that decision, but state lawmakers are expected to consider proposals to rewrite the transfer law next year.

McDaniel's office on Wednesday said the attorney general never discussed the case with Davis, and he didn't tell anyone involved in the case that he knew her. Assistant Attorney General Scott Richardson is listed as the lead attorney for the state in the case.

It's unclear whether McDaniel or Davis could face a complaint before a disciplinary panel. The state's professional conduct rules for attorneys says a conflict of interest exists if there's a significant risk that a client's representation will be "materially limited" by a personal interest of the lawyer.

Stark Ligon, director of the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, has said he can't comment on specific cases. Lawyers who violate the conduct rules can face sanctions that include law license suspension and disbarment.

McDaniel's campaign has refused to offer many details about his relationship with Davis, who was questioned by police in February after a Hot Springs man was fatally shot outside her home.

An initial report by the Garland County Sheriff's Office lists Davis' brother, Matthew Davis as a "suspect" who was present at the scene. State police, who have taken over the investigation, wouldn't discuss whether they have any suspects.

Davis also faces being found in contempt of court after not appearing for a Tuesday hearing in a case in which she represents a man charged with rape and incest with his stepdaughter. She must appear for a Jan. 8 hearing.

Debbie Willhite, a Democratic political consultant in Little Rock, said she hasn't seen signs yet of McDaniel's supporters throwing their support to another candidate. The damage to McDaniel's campaign probably won't be clear until next spring, since a quarterly campaign finance report due Jan. 15 would only reflect roughly two weeks of fundraising after he disclosed the relationship.

Willhite said McDaniel's campaign has handled the admission well but said the attorney general needs to have a "public mea culpa" about the relationship soon.

"People don't want to just read a press release," Willhite said. "They really want to see him, feel his pain and feel his remorse."

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



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