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.

"I've made a decision in that race, but now is not the time to discuss that," he said Friday. "At some point in time, I'll make that announcement with my wife and my children."

McDaniel, a former state representative from Jonesboro, was elected attorney general in 2006. He won re-election four years later without any major party opposition.

His path to the 2014 nomination appeared clear when then-U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, a Democrat, announced last year he would not seek the state's top office. Ross, now a senior vice president with Southwest Power Pool, said last month he wasn't reconsidering a run for governor but wouldn't completely rule out the idea. Ross did not immediately return a call Friday.

McDaniel's exit is the latest blow for a Democratic Party that is reeling from a November election where Republicans won control of the state House and Senate for the first time in 138 years. Republicans also swept all four of the state's congressional seats.

McDaniel said he did not have any plans yet to endorse anyone for the May 2014 primary.

"I know there are some very talented men and women within the Democratic Party who would not have considered running with me in the race, but now very much see it as an open field," he told the AP. "What I'm hoping is that the party will listen to and hear the debate on the issues and that we nominate the best person."

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. A spokesman said McDaniel called Beebe Thursday night to inform him of his decision. Beebe has not endorsed anyone in the governor's race.

"Essentially, the governor feels that Dustin needs to do what's best for him and his family," Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said.

Hutchinson announced earlier this month he would seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Several other Republicans are also considering a run.

Hutchinson said he still expects a tough race.

"I know how difficult a decision that has been for Dustin and I simply wish him well as he continues service to the state as attorney general," Hutchinson said in a phone interview. "Beyond that decision, we know there will be a strong Democratic candidate in the race and we'll just see how that plays out."

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