Editor's note: Story updated with comments from spokesman for former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced Wednesday (June 13) he will seek the Governor’s office in 2014.
The announcement makes McDaniel the first high-profile candidate to formally enter the race.
McDaniel, who will run as a Democrat, issued the following brief statement to announce his bid.
“Today with the filing of Articles of Incorporation, I began laying the groundwork for a campaign for Governor in 2014.
“This initial legal step allows me to begin the process of organizing and financing a gubernatorial bid. A formal announcement of my candidacy will come at a later date, but I expect a hard-fought campaign.
“I have the experience and ability to lead our state, confront the issues facing our citizens, and meet the demands of a 21st century economy. I believe Arkansas's best days are yet to come, and I look forward to sharing my vision in the months ahead.”
While other Democrats are expected to enter the race, McDaniel’s path was made somewhat easier when U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, made a surprise announcement on May 14 that he would not run for governor. He will instead join Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool as senior vice president for government affairs and public relations when his Congressional term ends in January 2013.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is term-limited at the end of 2014.
Other Democrats rumored to be pondering a gubernatorial bid include former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, and Little Rock businessman and Arkansas Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter.
Republicans rumored to be interested in the race include U.S. Reps. Tim Griffin and Steve Womack, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, Asa Hutchinson and Jim Keet.
UPDATE (from Roby Brock at TalkBusiness.net):
Bud Jackson, spokesman for former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who is eyeing a run for Governor in 2014, issued a statement this afternoon.
“People are sick and tired of perpetual campaigns and the election for the next governor is more than two years away. Launching a campaign now for November 2014 undermines candidates on the ballot this November. Time would be better spent working to get ethics reform before Arkansas voters this November,” Jackson said.
Halter committed last week to helping push an ethics reform initiative attempting to gain ballot access this November.
McDaniel said he supports the ethics reform proposal.