His statement is on the jump. He said he hadn't decided yet on a race for governor in 2014, which he's long been expected to make. But his reference to the race indicates it is very much in his sights.
If he plans a race for governor in 2014, a seat in Congress offered a higher profile. The announcement seemed oddly timed after a rip-roaring partisan speech to the Democratic Party at a fund-raiser Saturday night. Ross, who's been steadily raising money for re-election, also gave $10,000 from his political committee to the state Democratic Party.
Republicans were sneering at Ross over the weekend for his supposed politicial ambitions. Some of the criticism came from people planning to seek to move up themselves, such as U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, who's expected to try to take revenge on Sen. Mark Pryor for blocking his U.S. attorney appointment by running against him in 2014.
It's hard in the House now for minority Dems, particularly Blue Dog Dems such as Ross, but Ross has taken on long-shot challenges before and been in the minority before. He made a million selling his hometown pharmacy, where his wife still works, but he's not in the independently wealthy status that some politicians are.
He has more than $300,000 in his campaign account. He'd been targeted by the Republican National Committee and by Karl Rove's "independent" pro-Republican attack machine. Their money can be expected to pour into the 4th District, viewed as a conservative area likely to be friendly to Republicans and which, in slightly different form, elected Republican Jay Dickey before Ross unseated him.
I need to check, but I think Ross' excess federal cash can be transferred to a state race. He might do well to give more of it to state Democratic Party for 2012. Wouldn't be much fun elected Democratic governor with a Republican legislature. UPDATE: A state Ethics Commission opinion says federal money cannot be transferred to a state race. He can give it up to individual limits for state races, to the state party or to federal campaigns.
Noted at news conference: Ross said it wouldn't be "fair" to his constituents if were to be re-elected and then take time away from job to run for governor. Early dig at Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who probably won't be quitting that job to run for governor?
NOTED: Had Ross announced this decision earlier, the congressional redistricting perhaps could have been drawn in a way more favorable to a return of the 1st District to Democrats. HOWEVER, that's a republican view. Some Democrats think the final plan made Ross' plan redder, unlike the earlier Democratic plan (Fayetteville Finger) that would have helped all districts. He didn't care. He figured he could win again. But he was making plans all along to run for governor. Out of office, he can rewrite his story about what kind of Democrat he was. (Not much of one.)
ALSO ON THE JUMP: A GOP butt-kicking of Ross as he heads for the door. Democrats ought to kick him, too. He's given Republicans a huge leg-up on winning the seat. Good Democrats will remember that in the 2014 primary.
"Sources close to" many people are saying they are "considering" a race. No kidding. Republican siders include: Tom Cotton of Dardanelle, Beth Anne Rankin (waxed by Ross last year) and Rep. Lane Jean of Magnolia.
Ross took a few questions from the press before running to the airport to catch a flight back to Washington to take part in the debate over the debt ceiling. Ross talks about the lack of compromise from congressional Republicans and says things won't get done if one side refuses to meet in the middle. Ross also said he was "fed up with Congress."
ROSS NEWS RELEASE
WASHINGTON — U.S. Congressman Mike Ross of Prescott on Monday announced he will not be seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ross, who won re-election in 2010 by 18 points and has no announced opponent, has represented Arkansas’s Fourth Congressional District in Congress since 2001. A fifth generation Arkansan, Ross is a former state senator and former small business owner.
Statement from U.S. Congressman Mike Ross:
Representing my home state of Arkansas in the U.S. Congress for the past eleven years has been a real privilege and honor. It is a job that I take very seriously and one that I love. However, as I reflect on turning 50 this year, I believe it is time for me to begin a new chapter in my life by spending more time with my family and exploring new opportunities here at home in Arkansas.
That’s why I have decided not to seek a seventh term to the United States House of Representatives from Arkansas’s Fourth Congressional District. This was not an easy decision and one that I carefully made after a lot of reflection, thought and prayer.
Last year was a tough political environment to seek re-election. Yet, I won by 18 points—one of the largest margins of any member of Congress in a swing district. The trust and confidence the folks here at home have continually placed in me is something I will never forget. The people of Arkansas’s Fourth Congressional District are good, decent, hard working people and I am proud to serve and represent them in the U.S. Congress.
A lot has changed since I was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 2000. Congressional campaigns have gone from several months in length to never-ending, costing millions of dollars every two years. As a result, fundraising never ends nor do the political attacks. While I have worked hard to bring folks to the middle to craft commonsense solutions to the many problems that confront our nation, Washington is mired in gridlock, gamesmanship and constant partisan bickering. Too many issues and votes are based on partisan politics rather than good public policy. Despite our many challenges, I remain optimistic that America’s best days are still ahead of us.
I never believed that my service in the U.S. Congress should become a permanent career. This seat never belonged to me—it belongs to the people of Arkansas. And I know there are many bright people in Arkansas ready to step up, go to Washington and offer a new generation of leadership. Simply put, it is someone else’s turn to represent our state in the U.S. Congress.
I have many good memories of my service in the U.S. Congress, and we have helped thousands of people. None of this would have been possible without the support of the people here in Arkansas, and for that, my family and I will always be grateful to them.
I look forward to serving out the remainder of my term in the U.S. Congress, which doesn’t end until January 2013. I will continue to work each and every day on behalf of the people I represent, just as I have faithfully tried to do from the beginning.
I have received a lot of encouragement to run for Governor of Arkansas when Governor Beebe's term ends in 2014. I've always been very upfront and honest in the fact that, as a fifth generation Arkansan, I love our state and would like very much to help lead it at some point in the future. Whether I run for Governor in 2014 is a decision I have not yet made and won't make until sometime after my term in this Congress ends.
ARKANSAS REPUBLICAN PARTY STATEMENT
On the heels of making personal, disrespectful attacks about fellow Arkansas Republican House members, Congressman Mike Ross (D-4) announced today he is not seeking re-election. Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb released the following statement in response:
“We appreciate Rep. Ross’ service to the people of Arkansas and look forward to a Fourth Congressional District represented by a true conservative Republican not beholden to the failed economic policies of President Barack Obama which has resulted in our state having the highest level of unemployment in the last 24 years.
“Congressman Ross and President Obama have been reckless with our country’s economic future, refusing to responsibly cut spending and pass a Balance Budget Amendment. Ross knows the people of Arkansas will not support another DC Democrat who is a rubberstamp for President Obama’s economic record of high unemployment, runaway debt and spiking gas prices.”
Arkansas Unemployment Rate Highest in 24 Years
“Arkansas' June jobless rate jumped 0.3% to 8.1%, the first time the state has seen that high of unemployment since June 1987.” (Roby Brock, “ARKANSAS JOBLESS RATE HIGHEST IN 24 YEARS,” Talk Business , 7/22/11)
Ross Plays DC Democrat, Votes Against Blue Dogs on Spending Cuts, Balance Budget Amendment
“Five Blue Dog Democrats joined House Republicans in backing a conservative plan to condition a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit with immediate spending cuts, an annual cap on spending and a strict balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Reps. Heath Shuler (N.C.), Dan Boren (Okla.) Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Jim Cooper (Tenn.) all voted for the GOP "cut, cap and balance" plan that passed the House Tuesday on a vote of 234-190.” (Russell Berman, “Five Blue Dogs join GOP in vote for 'cut, cap and balance' bill,” The Hill , 7/19/11)
“The Arkansas House delegation split along party lines on Tuesday’s vote with Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, opposed to the “cut, cap and balance” bill. Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, and Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, supported it.” (Peter Urban, “Pryor backing bipartisan debt reduction plan,” Arkansas News Bureau , 7/20/11)
After Disavowing Partisan Attacks, Ross Personally Attacks Fellow House Members
"Congressman Ross isn't focused on launching these types of partisan attacks…” (NOMAAN MERCHANT, “Priebus: Public will blame Obama if US defaults,” Associated Press , 7/22/11)
“U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, the state's only Democratic congressmen, took a swipe at two of his fellow House members.’Tim Griffin already thinks he's running for the U.S. Senate and Rick Crawford has still got that deer in the headlight look,’ Ross said, referring to the congressmen representing central and eastern Arkansas.” (Andrew Demillo, “Montana governor rips congressional Republicans at Arkansas Democrats' fundraiser,” Associated Press , 7/23/11)
ARKANSAS DEMOCRATIC PARTY
(LITTLE ROCK) Chairman Will Bond of the Democratic Party of Arkansas released the following statement following the retirement announcement of Congressman Mike Ross:
“Congressman Mike Ross has been a tireless advocate for fiscal restraint and responsible budgeting in Washington, D.C. He has fought to protect important programs like Social Security and Medicare that are beneficial to all Arkansans. We appreciate his service and support him in his decision to retire in order to spend more time with his family and continue his focus on issues that are important to our state.”
“The Fourth District has an abundance of outstanding Arkansas Democrats, many of which would be excellent candidates in the Fourth Congressional District, and we look forward to working with our Democratic nominee. Congressman Ross won the Fourth District by an astounding 18 points last election cycle, a cycle that many found difficult for Democrats across the country. By announcing his retirement early, Arkansas Democrats looking to continue Democratic leadership in the Fourth will have ample time to prepare for the 2012 election cycle.”
“Again, we are grateful for the service of Congressman Mike Ross, and look forward to what the future holds for him and his family.”