Attorney General Dustin McDaniel Leaving Governor's Race

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 2:02 pm  

In an email to supporters, Dustin McDaniel said the scandal had become too much of a distraction for his campaign.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced Friday that he won't seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014, saying questions about an extramarital relationship would overshadow the discussion about the state's needs.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, a Democrat, quickly announced he would join the race, which has also attracted former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican.

McDaniel has faced questions about his campaign's future since admitting Dec. 18 to an "inappropriate" relationship with Hot Springs attorney Andrea Davis, who had handled five cases involving McDaniel's office. In an email to supporters, McDaniel said the scandal had become too much of a distraction for his campaign.

"I had hoped that I could shape the 2014 gubernatorial debate with my vision for the future," he wrote. "Unfortunately, I am now convinced that if I run for Governor, this campaign would be about me personally, rather than Arkansas's future."

McDaniel, who has been married for 2009, said in a telephone interview that he believed he and his family would have faced a more caustic race.

"It would have been a very negative and bitter race that was not focused on issues but rather, I believe, on me," McDaniel told The Associated Press. "I don't want that. I don't want that for the state. I don't want that for my family. I don't want that for me personally. I don't want that for the Democratic Party."

McDaniel has apologized for the relationship and promised that "there is no other shoe to drop." He has said no ethics rules were violated and the litigation involving Davis wasn't compromised.

McDaniel said he and Davis met during his 2010 re-election bid and the two had "limited" interaction in 2011. McDaniel told reporters earlier this month the two were in each other's presence less than half a dozen times, including at public events. Davis has said the two exchanged more than 500 text messages in 2011 and 2012.

McDaniel was the only announced Democratic candidate for governor until Friday. He has raised more than $1.4 million since launching his bid in June and had more than $1 million in the bank. McDaniel said he'll return money raised for the general election and potential primary runoff, and money raised for the primary will be returned proportionally after paying expenses to close out his campaign.

Halter announced he would seek the Democratic nomination moments after reports of McDaniel's dropping out surfaced. A spokesman said Halter would file paperwork to make his bid official next week.

"Over the holidays my family and I talked about the demands a campaign for governor would place on us," Halter said in a prepared statement. "We decided as a family that we are up for the challenge."

Democratic Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter also said he's considering a run.



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