Dustin McDaniel: Relationship Did Not Compromise State Litigation

Dustin McDaniel: Relationship Did Not Compromise State Litigation
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel

NORTH LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dustin McDaniel publicly apologized Tuesday for an extramarital relationship with a Hot Springs attorney, but he denied that any litigation by his office was compromised or ethics rules violated.

Speaking to the media for the first time since acknowledging an "inappropriate" relationship with attorney Andrea L. Davis, McDaniel vowed to move forward with his 2014 bid for governor. McDaniel, who has been married since 2009, admitted to the relationship in a statement issued by his campaign on Dec. 18.

"I allowed a lapse of character and judgment to hurt my family, my friends and my reputation," McDaniel told reporters in a 28-minute news conference. "For that, I am deeply ashamed and very sorry."

McDaniel offered few details on his relationship with Davis, who handled five cases that were defended by the attorney general's office. He said the two were in each other's presence less than half a dozen times, including at public events and that the relationship did not compromise any of the cases. He said he has not had any other affairs.

"There is no other shoe to drop," McDaniel said. "There are no other women. There is no litigation that was ever compromised. No rules of professional conduct were ever violated. No state resources, dollars or personnel were used for personal purposes. I made a mistake, for which I have taken and continue to take responsibility, but it had no impact on my job."

McDaniel's wife, Bobbi, attended Tuesday's news conference but did not stand with him or speak at the event. After Tuesday's press conference, the two hugged.

"This situation is entirely my fault, so I cannot ask her to stand up here simply for the purpose of easing my burden," he said.

Davis said late Tuesday afternoon that she was disappointed in McDaniel's remarks and suggested he wasn't telling the complete truth about their relationship.

"I was prepared to face the consequences of my actions upon his release of the truth. I am ready to move past my mistakes and I do not wish to deal with this set of circumstances repeatedly," Davis wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Thus, if the matter is going to be disclosed then I want it disclosed in a candid and truthful manner. It is a colossal waste of time and energy otherwise. I hope he rethinks his answers and presents them as they occurred. I simply do not want to relive this in six months."

McDaniel is the only announced Democratic candidate in the 2014 governor's race. He said Tuesday he is committed to moving forward with his campaign for the office, but acknowledged that voters would have to decide whether the relationship disqualifies him.

"It'll be up to them to decide whether to accept my explanation and my apology and how we move forward," he said. "But I do feel good about my campaign. I feel good about where we are."

McDaniel's admission last month was the latest setback for the Arkansas Democratic Party as it tries to recover from an election where it lost control of the Legislature for the first time in 138 years and saw Republicans sweep all four congressional seats. McDaniel has raised more than $1 million for his gubernatorial campaign since announcing in June.

Republican Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman, last week said that he also planned to run for governor next year. Several other Republicans are also considering a run. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and state Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter are considering running in the Democratic primary for governor.

Hutchinson said Tuesday he did not consider the relationship an issue in the governor's race.

"I would instruct anyone who worked on our campaign that would not be an issue in the campaign," he said. "We're focusing on economic development, improving education and other important issues for the state."

A spokesman for Halter said his decision on whether to join the race wouldn't be affected by McDaniel's admission.

Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat who is not running for re-election in 2014 because of term limits, earlier Tuesday said that admission would hurt McDaniel's campaign.

"Certainly it's not helpful to him and it certainly will have some effect," Beebe said in an interview broadcast on the Talk Business website. "The question is how does he handle it and how much will this continue in terms of publicity?"

McDaniel said last month he met Davis during his 2010 re-election bid and said in 2011 they had "limited interaction, some of which was inappropriate."

"I knew the minute that I did something inappropriate that I had made a mistake," McDaniel said.

McDaniel admitted to the relationship after Davis' ex-husband alleged a sexual affair between the two in court papers filed in a custody battle.

Davis was the opposing counsel in five cases handled by McDaniel's office, including a school choice lawsuit the state lost. McDaniel said his staff had no knowledge of his interaction with Davis, and said it did not affect the cases.

McDaniel said he and Davis never discussed the investigation into the death of Maxwell Anderson, who was found shot dead outside Davis' home in February.

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, won't say whether they have any suspects.

"I have no knowledge of the status of the investigation. The attorney general's office has no role or jurisdiction in this investigation, and I have never communicated with law enforcement about it," he said. "In short, I don't know anything about it."

McDaniel had repeatedly refused interview requests and has not made any public appearances since his campaign issued a statement from him last month admitting to the relationship. He's expected to speak at a Forrest City Chamber of Commerce event Thursday night and a spokesman said he would attend a fundraiser for his campaign Friday night in Hot Springs.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.)

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