Rep. Mike Ross (D-Prescott) said Monday he will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, but he left the door open for a gubernatorial run in 2014.

Ross, the lone Congressional Democrat in Arkansas’ delegation of 4, was considered a prime target for a Republican challenge next year due to redistricting and the prospect of Pres. Obama leading the ticket. Obama performed and has polled poorly in Arkansas.

But Ross won his last re-election by 18 points in a year when Republicans made unprecedented gains in Arkansas.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT

The 6-term Congressman released the following statement:
 
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.
 
But I do know if I was re-elected to the U.S. Congress next year, my term in the Congress would overlap with the Governor’s race. I believe it would be impossible to successfully run for Governor here at home, while effectively carrying out my congressional duties in Washington. That wouldn’t be fair to the people who elected me to Congress and it wouldn’t be fair to my supporters in a race for Governor. That certainly factored into my decision not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress.
 
I don’t know what my future holds, but I am hopeful it involves us continuing to work together to build an even brighter future for our state and its people.

THE RACE TO REPLACE MIKE ROSS

Here is a short list of potential GOP and Democratic prospects:

GOP
Tom Cotton – Flirted with a U.S. Senate run in 2010
Lt. Gov. Mark Darr – Has hinted at potential Ross challenge, but backed off Congressional run a few weeks ago. (Darr said publicly today that he would not seek the office.)
Jay Dickey – the former Congressman from the Fourth. His name has popped up in GOP candidate talk and he still has roots in the district.
Glenn Gallas – Ran for GOP Congressional primary, but lost to Beth Anne Rankin
Lane Jean – First-term State Rep. and former Mayor of Magnolia
Beth Anne Rankin – GOP candidate who lost to Ross in 2010
Will Rockefeller – son of late Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller
Matthew Shepherd – First-term State Rep. from El Dorado with political pedigree

Democrats
Robin Carroll – Prosecutor based in south Arkansas and former Democratic Party legal counsel
Conner Eldridge – U.S. prosecutor, but he was recently installed and could be facing poor timing for a race.
Steve Faris – former State Senator from Malvern
Steve Harrelson – State Senator from Texarkana
Gene Jeffress – Term-limited State Senator
Bruce Maloch – Term-limited State Rep. from Magnolia who is also eyeing State Senate run (Maloch says he’s committed to State Senate run)
Chris Masingill – former Ross Arkansas director, Beebe political operative and current head of the Delta Regional Authority. Lots of ties to the Fourth.
Gregg Reep – Term-limited State Rep. from Warren who is also eyeing State Senate run
Larry Teague – incoming State Senate President in 2013
Chris Thomason – Former State Rep. who now serves as chancellor of community college in Hope
Hank Wilkins – Term-limited state legislator from Pine Bluff

Talk Business blogger Jason Tolbert is tracking down potential candidates and seeking comments. You can follow his updates at this link.  Talk Business blogger Michael Cook is at Ross press conference. You can follow his Twitter feed here.

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