Ross: ‘last, best hope’ for Democrats?

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Halter already has a campaign fund of $1 million, but an opinion writer for Talk Business believes former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross is the the “last, best hope” for Democrats to hold the Arkansas Governor’s office.

Gov. Mike Beebe, possibly one of the most consistently popular governor in Arkansas history, is term-limited, leaving the 2014 race for Governor wide open.

So far, the Republican frontrunner is former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson. Little Rock businessman and Republican Curtis Coleman has also entered the race.

The 2014 race for governor has already proven tumultuous. The two leading candidates on the Democratic side have already dropped.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told supporters on Jan. 25 that he was out of the race. Former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, announced in 2012 he would take a private sector job instead of make a run for governor. However, it is rumored that Ross is being heavily lobbied to run for the office now that McDaniel dropped out. In fact, on Tuesday Ross announced he was resigning his governmental affairs job at Southwest Power Pool to “pursue another opportunity in public service.”

Jason Tolbert, an opinion writer for Talk Business, provided the following points as to why Ross is more likely to survive a primary and general election race than Halter.
• The down the ballot impact is key for the state legislature where the Republican majority is a razor-thin 51 with several close districts open in the next cycle due to term limits. I have to think that a rural Democratic state legislative candidate – particularly in south Arkansas – will be a lot more excited about Ross campaigning with him than Halter.

• The impact on a Fourth District Congressional primary could also be interesting. If Cong. (Tom) Cotton runs for the Senate against Sen. Pryor – as appears likely – then I would expect a primary for this open seat on both sides of the aisle.  This would force south Arkansas voters to choose which primary to vote in.

• There is little doubt that a heated governor’s race between Halter and Ross with a relatively tame Republican primary will draw many to request a Democratic ballot in May.

• I will also add that Republicans I speak to have indicated they expect Ross to be much tougher to beat than Halter or even McDaniel would have been. The opposition research is already arriving on Ross, much of which is focusing on his vote in the summer of 2009 to move ObamaCare out of committee. (Link here for a video of Tolbert asking Ross about the vote.)

But Halter, who narrowly lost the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in 2010 to incumbent Blanche Lincoln, doesn’t appear intimidated.

On April 3 he released fundraising figures revealing he raised more than $1 million for the first quarter of 2013. The figure includes a personal loan of $640,000 Halter made to his campaign, which means in the time frame of Jan. 1 to March 31, he raised $360,000 from various donors.

“It’s been an incredible 60 days, and I am profoundly grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received from folks across our state,” Halter said in a statement. “Arkansas needs a leader, not a lobbyist, in the Governor’s mansion who will put forward genuine policy proposals that will help all Arkansans.”

Halter’s release provided a breakout of some of the numbers:
• More than $360,000 raised from more than 600 contributors;
• More than 500 contributions of $100 or less; and,
• $640,000 personal loan from Bill Halter.

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Michael Cook, also an opinion writer with Talk Business, said the Democratic primary will not be a quiet one.

“It appears that Democrats, unlike the Republicans, are going to have a vigorous primary next year with two prominent former elected officials contending for the nomination,” Cook noted in this report at Talk Business.

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