LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross said Saturday he’s weighing a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Arkansas next year, with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s exit from the race prompting him to reconsider after announcing earlier that he wouldn’t seek it.
Ross said supporters have been encouraging him to look at possibly running after McDaniel dropped out in January over questions about an admitted extramarital relationship. Ross, who represented south Arkansas’ 4th District, said last year that he wouldn’t pursue the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Now, he said he hoped to soon decide whether to reverse course on that decision.
“Dustin McDaniel getting out of the race has left a huge void which clearly none of the other candidates are filling or I wouldn’t be getting all these calls from every corner of the state,” Ross told The Associated Press, the first time he’s said publicly he was looking at the race. “I’m humbled by that and I feel a sense of duty and responsibility to the people of this state to at least reconsider my decision and I’m doing that.”
Referring to his wife, Ross said: “Holly says I’m the only person in Arkansas that doesn’t know I’m running.”
Ross made the comments as he attended a fundraiser to kick off Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor’s re-election bid. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is the only announced Democratic candidate for governor. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson and Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman are seeking the GOP nomination.
Halter and Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter, who is also weighing a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, were also at the Pryor fundraiser.
Ross had been widely expected to run for governor when he announced in 2011 that he wouldn’t seek re-election to his south Arkansas seat. He instead announced plans last year to take a job as senior vice president for government affairs and public relations for SPP, which manages electric services for 65 utilities in a nine-state area.
Ross said Saturday he doesn’t have a specific time for making a decision about the race.
“If I’m convinced I can win, then I’ll probably run,” Ross said.
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is barred by term limits from seeking re-election next year, and Republicans have made dramatic gains in the state over the past two election cycles. The GOP swept all four of the state’s U.S. House seats last year — including Ross’ district — and won control of the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction in last year’s election.
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