Former Fourth District Congressman Mike Ross (D) made it official today that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for Arkansas Governor in 2014.

Ross, who started his formal campaign announcement tour in his hometown of Prescott, has been mulling the race since January when Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel dropped his bid after admitting to an “inappropriate relationship” with a Hot Springs attorney.

Former Lt. Governor Bill Halter has already declared he will seek the Democratic nomination for Governor. Republicans Asa Hutchinson and Curtis Coleman have also announced.

Halter issued a statement welcoming Ross to the Governor’s race.

“I welcome Mike Ross to this race and look forward to a vigorous discussion about the issues facing Arkansas families,” said Halter. “There are real differences between us and voters will have a clear choice in this primary about the best path forward for Arkansas in creating new jobs, protecting our seniors, and providing world class education for every Arkansan.”

Ross served 12 years in Congress representing the expansive south and western Arkansas Fourth District. He chose not to run for re-election in 2012 and took a private sector job with electricity transmission operator Southwest Power Pool. He resigned from that job two weeks ago.

He said his campaign would focus on Arkansas’s future – particularly in the areas of education and economic development – and that he would use his experience to bring people together, fight for middle-class families and move Arkansas forward.

“I’m running for governor, because I love our state and the people who call Arkansas home and because my desire to serve has never been greater,” said Ross at his Prescott announcement. “I’m running for governor to build on the foundation and progress that Governor Beebe has made in the areas of education and economic development. And, I’m running for governor, because I believe in our future and want to use my experience of bringing people together to unite our state and move Arkansas forward.”

Ross planned stops throughout the day in Texarkana, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock.

He said he would put forth policies throughout the campaign that will define his work as governor and shape his vision for Arkansas.

“Over the course of this campaign, we will propose policies and plans that tackle the big issues and put our state on a course to lead the nation in this new century,” said Ross. “As governor, I will be a steady, compassionate and fair leader who listens, and I will use my experience of bringing people together to get results for middle-class families. And, as your governor, my pledge to you will be what it has always been: that I will never stop fighting for you and the common sense, Arkansas values we were raised on and still believe in.”

The text of his announcement speech is listed below:

Thank you for that introduction and thank you all for being here today.

I stand before you as a fifth-generation and lifelong Arkansan…

As a husband of 30 years and father of two…

As the grandson of a farmer and a nurse…

As the son of public school educators…

As a former small business owner who has created jobs…

As a former state senator and U.S. Congressman…

And, as a proud Arkansas Democrat, with role models and mentors like Bill Clinton, David Pryor, Dale Bumpers and Mike Beebe…

I stand here today, with incredible faith in our future, and announce my candidacy for governor of the great state of Arkansas!

I’m running for governor to build on the foundation and progress that Governor Beebe has made in the areas of education and economic development.

I’m running for governor, because I believe in our future and I want to use my experience of bringing people together to unite our state and move Arkansas forward.

And, I’m running for governor, because I love our state and the people who call Arkansas home.

Over the course of my life, this state has given so much to my family and me…and my desire to give back and serve has never been greater.

My grandparents taught me the values of hard work and personal responsibility. And, my parents taught me the value of a good education.

My family made sure I knew right from wrong, raised me in a Christian home and encouraged me to chase my dreams. The strong moral compass my family gave me has guided my entire adult life, and it will guide the decisions I make in the governor’s office.

As a former small business owner with my wife, Holly, I learned first hand the challenges of starting and operating a small business, like meeting a payroll every Friday, balancing the books and treating employees with the respect they deserve.

I know Arkansas, because I’ve lived and worked here all my life.

I was the product of Arkansas public schools and state colleges and so are my children.

While serving my community in the State Senate, I helped countless people who had reached the end of their rope and had nowhere else to go.

I helped small businesses, veterans and seniors cut through government red tape. I helped create the Arkansas Academic Challenge scholarship program and helped improve our state’s highways and infrastructure. And, I helped balance the state’s budget each and every year I was in the Arkansas State Senate.

For 12 years, I served as your voice in Congress, working to bring both Republicans and Democrats together to put solutions over partisanship.

While in Congress, I voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure women get equal pay for equal work and to extend the statute of limitations giving women more time to challenge discrimination in the workplace.

I fought hard to raise the minimum wage to help working families.

I voted to expand AR Kids First so that 60,000 more Arkansas children would have access to health care.

I voted to cut student loan interest rates in half and helped pass the single largest investment in veterans’ health care funding in our nation’s history.

And, I strongly opposed each and every attempt to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Those who know me, know I never moved to Washington and I came back home every weekend to listen to you and to fight for your values in our nation’s capital.

I know Arkansas, because I never left Arkansas…and I listen.

I know that too many families are still struggling to make ends meet. I’ve spoken with working families who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and small business owners who are barely getting by. I have visited with farm families who are one natural disaster away from total bankruptcy. And, I have listened to seniors in every corner of this state who are worried about the future of Social Security and Medicare.

I know Arkansas, because I’ve spent more than twenty years fighting for you.

I believe in you and I believe in our great state, and that’s why I’m running to be your next governor.

In the same tradition as Governor Beebe – who I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with for a decade in the State Senate – we need to build on all the unique things that make Arkansas the best place to live, work, start a business and raise a family.

We must ensure that our children and grandchildren have the educational opportunities they deserve, including access to a world-class education with well-paid teachers and safe schools.

Securing our children’s future requires all of us, working together, to once again embrace this state as the Land of Opportunity for all of God’s children.

Because, every single child born in Arkansas should have faith that if they work hard, play by the rules and study, they can reach their God-given potential and achieve their dreams – and they shouldn’t have to leave Arkansas to do so.

That’s why education and job creation must be this state’s top priorities. And, that’s why I chose to announce my candidacy here in my hometown of Prescott.

Behind me, you can see the great potential and difficult challenges that face communities like Prescott all over this state.

On one side, we see a terrific community partner in Firestone, who has celebrated more than 40 years of operations here. And, last October, I was proud to join Governor Beebe to dedicate a $36 million expansion project, saving or creating over 500 jobs.

On the other side, this industrial park remains empty. Like Prescott, there are industrial parks all around this state that are too much park, and not enough industry.

We have too many storefronts in town squares and on Main Streets that are boarded up or empty. And, we have too many communities on the verge of collapse because a factory left town.

While there are many success stories, like Firestone here in Prescott, we still face too many challenges throughout this state. But, as our economy recovers and gets stronger every day, I believe we stand on the cusp of an economic revolution in Arkansas.

We have so much potential. Our people already have the strongest work ethic in the nation.

But, to be globally competitive, we must have the best community colleges and the strongest universities, so that we can ensure Arkansas will have the highly-skilled, well-educated workforce needed to attract the good-paying, high-tech jobs of the future.

When I’m elected, you will have a governor that will work day and night to provide more educational opportunities and be this state’s biggest economic ambassador, because I believe in the future of Arkansas and I believe in its people.

Over the past few months, some misguided politicians have taken over the state legislature and have made divisive issues of the past their top priority – instead of working to create jobs, improve education and strengthen the economy.

Here lately, it seems the only time Arkansas makes national news is when these divisive politicians succeed at pushing through their attacks on women and families. Attacks like these only serve to erase the progress Arkansas has made and they detract from our focus on the future.

So, my message to those that try to divide us and take us backward: your attacks on women and families will not work. And, your divisive politics, all too familiar in Washington – do not belong here in Arkansas.

I have a better vision…a positive vision…a vision that defends women’s rights and treats all Arkansans with the respect and dignity they deserve…a vision that will move Arkansas forward.

Joined by my wife, Holly, we will fight for Arkansas’s working families, for equal pay and equal treatment for women and we will fight to root out discrimination in all forms.

We will fight for our farm families…for better education and better schools – both rural and urban.

We will fight for more investments in alternative and renewable energy, and for policies that protect the environment so that Arkansas truly remains the Natural State.

And, every day, we will fight for common sense solutions that create good-paying jobs here at home.

Let me be clear. Challenging times and big decisions face the next governor.

Over the course of this campaign, I will propose policies and plans that tackle the big issues and put our state on a course to lead the nation in this new century.

I will be a steady, compassionate and fair leader who listens. And, I will use my experience to bring people together and get results for middle-class families.

Today, the journey begins to create a new, 21st century Arkansas focused on the future.

And, at this moment, our campaign begins.

Join me and let’s renounce the politics that divide us and take us back to the past. Instead, let’s build on Governor Beebe’s successes and keep moving Arkansas forward.

I need your vote and support. So, I’m asking you to call everyone you know and tell them to go to mikeross.com.

Ask your friends, family and coworkers to join our campaign for a better Arkansas and a better tomorrow, a campaign based on improving education and creating jobs. A campaign that’s about our values and our future.

And, as your governor, my pledge to you will be what it has always been:

That I will never stop fighting for you and the common sense, Arkansas values we were raised on – and still believe in.

Thank you. May God bless you and may God continue to bless the great state of Arkansas.

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