Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter, who announced earlier today that he is running for lieutenant governor, had a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
"After lots of prayer and discussion and debate, I finally decided that this was the best place for me to serve my state at this time," Burkhalter said. "I concluded that lieutenant governor is a great opportunity for me to help a lot of people in this state. ... My plan is to make the lieutenant governor’s office more visible, active, and definitely more engaging to the people of the state of Arkansas."
Well okay, he can't exactly come out and say that he didn't think he could beat Mike Ross in the race to be Democratic nominee for governor. Burkhalter had lots of stump-speech talk about economic development and education and big plans to use the "set of tools in [his] bag" to "create jobs in this state," but was less clear on how he could do this via a part-time job with almost no responsibilities. That reality led to some less-than-inspiring lines: "As lieutenant governor I plan to wake up every day focused on being a lieutenant governor."
One reporter asked how he had come to to the decision not to run for governor (and noted that his agenda sounded like someone running for the top job). Burkhalter dodged:
For many months I have debated where I would end up and what I would do. I did originally look at the governor’s race seriously. My wife and I had many long discussions about it. [Ed. Note: ready for the total non-sequitur?] When you boiled it all down, what you hear from Arkansans — because I’ve spoken to a lot of people — what I hear over and over and over again is jobs. People are worried about the job they have, are they going to keep their job. Are they going to lose their job, is the economy moving forward? When I’ve spoken with people, they’ve asked me why do you want to run for governor [Ed. Note: oops!]? Why do you want to run for elected office? It always boiled down to jobs.
More from Burkhalter after the jump:
*Keeping his gig: Burkhalter will stay on as Highway Commissioner as he runs for lieutenant governor.
I’ve spent my lifetime designing infrastructure projects. I bring a great set of tools in my bag to the Highway Commission. As everyone knows we passed the half-cent sales tax and the GARVEE bonds. We’ve got a lot of projects in the works. I bring a lot to that commission, and I plan to continue to serve my state which I love. And I thoroughly enjoy being on the Highway Commission, like when I was on the Economic Development Commission. I plan to continue to keep doing a good job for my state.
We are going to be competitive. We are going to have the resources to win the race. I’ve got a lot of support from around the state. A lot of the people that do know me know in my heart how I feel in my state and what I want to accomplish. I want to create jobs. I’ve been blessed. I grew up middle class in a small town…I’ve been successful beyond what I ever dreamed. I grew up believing that if you ended up with a split-level house and a black-and-white television, you had absolutely lived the American Dream, which I still believe to this day is the American Dream. I look forward to this campaign.
*No endorsement: Burkhalter declined to endorse either Ross or Bill Halter for governor, though he said he was an "opinionated person" and would "make that decision when the time comes."
*More toolbag talk:
I’m just basically a hard-working guy. If you were with me right now I’ve got my sleeves rolled up. That’s all I know is hard work. I believe I have an innate set of tools in my bag and I’m going to use those tools to help start-up entrepenuers, CEOs, anybody that comes to me.