by Max Brantley
UPDATE: The official statement from Dustin McDaniel to his e-mail list:
I sought public office to serve my fellow Arkansans and to lead on issues that matter to the State that I love. I have done that, and I will be forever proud of my record in the legislature and as AG. I had hoped that I could shape the 2014 gubernatorial debate with my vision for the future. Unfortunately, I am now convinced that if I run for Governor, this campaign would be about me personally, rather than Arkansas's future.
When it comes to our economy, our infrastructure and our schools — Arkansas is at a crossroads. I believe that we need a visionary to lead our state forward on these critical issues. Arkansas deserves a campaign that will focus on those issues, so I believe it’s in the best interests of my family, our state and the Democratic Party for me to not run for Governor.
Bobbi and I want to thank the many people who have encouraged and supported us and continue to lift our family up in prayer. My path lies in doing my job and enjoying my family, not in the chaos of this campaign. I will spend my last two years as Attorney General focused on issues that matter to Arkansas, like fighting Medicaid fraud, ending the Pulaski County Desegregation case and standing up for consumers. I pledge that our next Attorney General will inherit one of the most well-run offices in the United States, and I will leave grateful for the tremendous honor of having served.
WHAT I WROTE EARLIER:
Reliable reports are piling up that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is going to announce today his withdrawal from the 2014 race for governor.
My first word came from a Republican friend (yes a Republican friend) who e-mailed me to say Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is getting out of the race for governor. Further e-mails add to that story, including reflecting expectations of McDaniel staffers that they'll be looking for other work.
Why would a Republican know? Because McDaniel has established some Republican friendships in recent hard times, including with Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, and that contact has produced some early accurate warnings on some previous McDaniel news.
I am awaiting a call back from McDaniel on this news, not so shocking given recent poll numbers that show him cratering after news of his affair with a Hot Springs lawyer, Andi Davis.
Davis' own personal issues — though not directly related to McDaniel — had always guaranteed continuing publicity problems. And she's indicated a desire to talk fully about her relationship with McDaniel, including some matters he's not been willing to discuss. Text messages between the two, for example, will be revealed someday when a case file is opened on the fatal shooting of Maxwell Anderson at Davis' house last February. Her brother shot Anderson in what she and he say was self-defense. No charges have been filed, but the investigation has not yet been closed. Davis had indicated unhappiness with McDaniel for not disclosing more fully their talks about pending legal matters and other issues.
McDaniel had a balance of more than $1 million toward a campaign at last report. But he's had little good news in the polling world, with high unfavorable ratings a particular problem, since he confirmed he'd had an inappropriate relationship in 2011 with Davis. The matter was complicated by her occasional involvement in legal cases, including the high-profile school transfer case, in which McDaniel's office has had a role. He's insisted no ethical lines were crossed. His office prevailed in the cases at issue and McDaniel rarely had an active role. But appearances were damaging.
Asa Hutchinson is the lead Republican candidate for governor. He's avoided comment on McDaniel's situation. He didn't need to do so. It got plenty without his help.
Bill Halter, the former lieutenant governor, has been waiting in the wings to mount a Democratic campaign for governor, but had remained silent, too. Supporters of his have been among those fanning the flames on McDaniel, hoping to drive him out of the race. Halter lost a Senate primary against Blanche Lincoln two years ago. UPDATE: He's in the race for 2014 now.
One wonders if Mike Ross, the congressman/turned lobbyist is far behind. Assorted other names also have emerged, including former Sen. Shane Broadway.
Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter, who's worth $40 million or so according to a recent court case, has also told Democratic Party officials that he plans to make the race for governor. It's a measure of his place on the political scale at the moment that I didn't think about him initially.
I wrote recently, when McDaniel ventured crudely into the gun debate on the NRA side, that it was sign of desperation in his campaign. I remarked then that he looked like toast.
Could he have come back? Bill Clinton overcame personal issues more than once. This was different particularly because it went beyond sex to messy ancillary issues. I learned just this morning of another angle to the open homicide investigation that, though it was not of McDaniel's making, would have produced more embarrassing headlines for him. There were, in short, a list of issues and people, Davis particularly, beyond his ability to control.
He also has a family and children to consider. He said, and it rings true, that a race all about him wasn't a good prospect.
Sad when a long-held dream comes crashing down, for anyone, even if he was the architect of the collapse. He had the contacts, the money-raising ability and a dose of the charisma, plus the energy, that's necessary to win a statewide race in Arkansas. 2014 was and is going to be hard for him or any Democrat in the changing Arkansas political tide, but he had a strong shot B.A. (before Andi). Asa Hutchinson only narrowly outpointed him in early polling and Hutchinson's own favorable numbers are low and likely to go lower when more of his record is remembered and examined. McDaniel's exit, however, might encourage more competition on the Republican side. And I don't mean Curtis Coleman.
UPDATE: I sought a comment from Andi Davis, at the center of events that developed rapidly over the span of a bit more than a month. She said she might comment later, but it would be inappropriate today.
I think it only appropriate to reserve any comment at this time. Thank you. For any other specific inquiry,
feel free to contact my attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig. I appreciate the opportunity and thank you for contacting me.
Her lawyer, Jeff Rosenzweig, said in a note:
"All she wishes is to get her life back, to raise her children and do the best job possible for her law clients."