Posted 6/11/2013 03:29 pm
Updated 6 months ago
LITTLE ROCK - A member of the Arkansas Highway Commission and the president of the Little Rock school board announced Tuesday they're running for lieutenant governor, setting up a contested Democratic primary as the party tries to rebound from recent Republican gains in the state.
Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter announced he was running for the office next year, opting out a race for governor that he had been mulling over the past year. Burkhalter launched his bid shortly after Little Rock School Board President Dianne Curry also announced she's running.
Burkhalter, 56, who owns a North Little Rock construction company, said he believed he could be an advocate for job creation economic development as lieutenant governor.
"I concluded that lieutenant governor is a great opportunity for me to help a lot of people in the state," Burkhalter told reporters on a conference call.
Curry, 59, who was first elected to the school board in 2006 and has been re-elected twice since then, said she also hoped to use the office to advocate for education and health awareness.
"I've been an advocate out there in the public for issues that affect the common every day person," Curry said.
Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr has not said whether he'll seek re-election next year and has said he's also considering a run for Congress. Darr earlier this year ruled out a run for governor.
Darr was elected the same year that Republicans won two other constitutional offices, along with a U.S. Senate seat. Since then, the GOP has won control of the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.
The lieutenant governor in Arkansas presides over the state Senate and can cast tie-breaking votes in that chamber. The lieutenant governor also serves when the governor is out of state. Darr clashed with Gov. Mike Beebe earlier this year when he signed when the governor was out of state into law a bill making the names of Arkansans permitted to carry concealed handguns.
Beebe had planned to allow the bill to go into law without his signature, but Darr said he wanted it to take effect more quickly.
Burkhalter's decision against a run for governor sets up a two-man race for the party's nomination between former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross and former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman, state Rep. Debra Hobbs and former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson are seeking the Republican nomination.
Beebe, a Democrat, is term limited and can't run for re-election next year.
Beebe appointed Burkhalter to the state highway commission in 2011 and his appointment is set to expire in 2017. Burkhalter said he didn't plan on resigning from the commission while he runs for lieutenant governor.
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