LITTLE ROCK Dustin McDaniel is dropping out of the race for governor, a decision that comes more than a month after his admission to an extramarital affair with a Hot Springs attorney.
News of the withdrawal from the race came on the same day former Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter announced he would run.
McDaniel, a Democrat, had vowed to stay in the race, saying in a news conference earlier this month that there was "no other shoe to drop" beyond an inappropriate relationship with lawyer Andi Davis.
But on Friday, he said he had changed his mind on running.
"I had hoped that I could shape the 2014 gubernatorial debate with my vision for the future," McDaniel said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, I am now convinced that if I run for Governor, this campaign would be about me personally, rather than Arkansas's future."
At the Jan. 8 news conference in North Little Rock, McDaniel said he met Davis less than half a dozen times and that his interactions with her had no impact on his duties as attorney general. Davis was the lawyer in five cases where McDaniel's office represented the state, including a federal lawsuit against the state over the Arkansas School Choice Act.
McDaniel said then that he also has no knowledge of the ongoing investigation into the death of Hot Springs resident Maxwell Anderson. Anderson's body was found outside Davis' home and she was escorted from the home in handcuffs when deputies responded Feb. 29.
Davis told Talk Business that hundreds of text messages exchanged between her and McDaniel were handed over to the state Crime Laboratory, where the are being reviewed as part of the homicide investigation.
In the news conference earlier this month, McDaniel spoke positively of his political future and vowed to running for governor despite the controversy. "I do so humbly, recognizing I need to earn the second chance I am asking for," he said.
But in the statement issued Friday to media and supporters, McDaniel said he was committed to finishing his second term as attorney general and to his family, not the "chaos of this campaign."
"I believe that we need a visionary to lead our state forward on these critical issues," he said. "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."
Full text of McDaniel's letter:
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.