Bill Halter Quits Race for Governor to Avoid 'Divisive Primary'

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Jul. 29, 2013 10:05 am  

Bill Halter

LITTLE ROCK — Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter dropped out of the race for Arkansas governor on Monday, saying he wanted to avoid a divisive primary with former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross for the Democratic nomination in 2014.

Halter, who entered the race in January, told supporters in an email that he was ending his bid for the state's top office. A spokesman for Halter said the former lieutenant governor would not be available for further comment.

"But since we announced our gubernatorial campaign another strong candidate has entered the primary election and in order to avoid a divisive primary and to help unite the Democratic Party, I am ending my campaign for Governor," Halter wrote. "I congratulate Mike Ross on a great start to his campaign and I will be working hard to elect him and other Democratic nominees for office in the coming election."

Halter had been mentioned during his gubernatorial bid as a potential challenger to Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin for a central Arkansas congressional seat. But neither Halter nor his spokesman, Bud Jackson, said whether he was looking at any other races.

"We're not going to play the rumor game that has been going on ever since he first entered the race," Jackson said

Halter announced he was running for governor on Jan. 25, the same day Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said he was dropping out of the race over questions about an extramarital relationship. Ross, who had initially passed on a run for governor, announced his bid April 15.

Halter's announcement comes two weeks after fundraising reports showed he was far behind Ross in the hunt for donors. Ross announced he had raised nearly $2 million during the quarter, while Halter had raised only $102,900. Most of the money Halter had in the bank was from a $640,000 loan he made to his campaign in March.

Ross said Halter called him earlier Monday and welcomed the former lieutenant governor's supporters to his campaign.

"I thanked him for his many years of service to the state of Arkansas, and said that I hope he continues to pursue public service," Ross said in a statement released by his campaign. "It's clear Bill loves Arkansas and cares deeply for the people of this great state."

The decision leaves Ross as the only candidate for the Democratic nomination and boosts his party's hopes after recent Republican gains in the state. Republicans won control of the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction in November, and the GOP swept all four of the state's U.S. House seats.

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, state Rep. Debra Hobbs and Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman are seeking the Republican nomination.

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is barred by term limits from seeking re-election next year.



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