The race for Arkansas Governor could get more interesting, especially if an Independent with money and name recognition enters the race.
Former GOP gubernatorial candidate and natural gas executive Sheffield Nelson tells Talk Business Arkansas that he is giving consideration to a run for Governor either as a Republican or Independent.
“I think its too early to say what’s going to happen in 2014, so I’m just listening right now,” Nelson said.
He says he has been approached by “a significant number of people with money” who have discussed a potential run for Governor as either a Republican or Independent.
“I could never run as a Democrat. I haven’t even looked at that really,” Nelson said. “I have had some people talking to me about running as an Independent and I’ve had more talk to me about running as a Republican.”
If he were to enter the Republican primary, he could force a run-off as former Congressman Asa Hutchinson and North Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman have already stated their interest in seeking the GOP nomination. Lt. Governor Mark Darr announced his support for Hutchinson early Tuesday morning (Feb. 12).
Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is the only announced candidate considering a run for the Democratic nomination.
But as an Independent candidate, Nelson could be a gadfly in the general election. Most political observers view an Independent bid to be futile for victory, but a well-known, decently-funded independent candidate with Republican ties could pull votes away from a GOP candidate in the general election.
In addition to a history in Arkansas politics as a two-time GOP gubernatorial candidate in the 1990′s, Nelson also boosted his name recognition in recent years through his advocacy for an increase in the Arkansas severance tax on natural gas. As a former natural gas company executive, Nelson has pushed to raise the tax on the industry in which he used to work.
Last year, Nelson led a statewide ballot initiative to raise the severance tax on natural gas. That effort fell far short of the needed signatures to gain ballot access.
He says he is not only undecided about a Governor’s run, but he has not made his mind up about restarting the natural gas tax ballot initiative.
“It’s too early to look at that right now. Again, it’s just something you don’t have to focus on right now,” Nelson said.