Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R) says he will no longer be a candidate for the U.S. Congress, District 4 seat.
In a statement released to Talk Business Arkansas this morning, Darr said:
“After careful thought and deliberation, I will not be seeking the Fourth District position in the United States Congress.
I feel that my priority needs to be focused on my family and sometimes trying to achieve titles gets in the way of that.
I look forward to serving out my current term as Lt. Governor and helping my friends get elected or re-elected should they desire my assistance.
I have made many friends across this state.. . young and old. .. Democrats and Republicans and for their unwavering support I am humbled.”
Darr’s campaign was consumed last week after Matt Campbell with the Blue Hog Report blog reported on discrepancies and expenses in Darr’s campaign finance reports related to campaign debt from his Lt. Governor’s race.
Darr wound up self-reporting items to the Arkansas Ethics Commission and is in the process of amending his campaign expenditure records.
Darr’s exit from the Fourth Congressional District race leaves House Majority Leader Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) and businessman Tommy Moll as the only two GOP candidates in the field. Democrat Janis Percefull has also announced for the seat.
Rep. Westerman issued a statement this morning:
“I thank Lt. Governor Darr and his family for their continued service to the people of Arkansas. I salute him for being an important part of the historic 2010 election that started our state down the path of common-sense conservative government–a path we must continue to move forward upon in order to create a brighter future for our state.
“I will continue my campaign to fight the unfair, top-down government of President Obama and change it into one that treats us fairly, doesn’t pick winners and losers, no longer ties the hands of state government, lives within its means, and creates an environment where we can grow good-paying jobs for Arkansas workers.”
UPDATE: In a one-on-one Talk Business Arkansas interview, Darr said he is out of the Fourth Congressional District race, but he’s not ready to endorse any candidate and he’s not certain yet if he will be on the ballot in 2014 in some capacity, including Lt. Governor.
“I’m not running for Congress, I’m not running for Governor,” Darr said on Thursday morning. “I think what I need to do is get this cleared up at the Ethics Commission first before I even worry about that.”
Darr is referring to discrepancies and errors in his candidate filing reports related to debt retirement that were first reported by the Blue Hog Report blog. Darr is self-reporting a number of errors and says he’s hired Morrilton attorney Paul Dumas to represent him before the Ethics Commission.
“No one wants to make a mistake in filling out reports obviously, I’m not throwing other people under the bus. I signed the reports, so it’s my campaign, my responsibility. But there were some errors on there,” he admitted. Darr also said that he expects he may owe his campaign money as he took more than the debt he was owed.
“I think I will. It’s not a whole lot of money but it’s still an error in calculation and reporting,” Darr said. He was not ready to disclose the total repayment as he wanted Dumas to review his amended reports, but he said the amount was “not exorbitant.”
DROPPING OUT OF CONGRESSIONAL RACE
Darr said he thought the problems with his ethics reports would not have prevented him from being competitive or winning the Fourth District Congressional GOP nomination.
“It didn’t affect my ability to raise money,” he said claiming that he had numerous commitments that he did not call in during his first days of the race. He doesn’t think he’ll have to file a report with FEC due to the small amount of money he actually collected.
But the ordeal with the ethics reports was an indicator of how brutal the political campaign in the competitive race was going to be, and Darr said last week he figured he would have to drop his Congressional bid because of the questions that were raised.
“Last Friday, I knew what my decision was. No one likes their character being questioned,” he said, acknowledging that it was very difficult for him and his family.
“When somebody talks bad about me, I can get over that and it doesn’t bug me. Or when people spread rumors or accusations or comparisons, I guess you could say, that doesn’t bug me. But it bugs my wife. If I look at that on the flip side, I’d be overprotective of her,” said Darr.
“I’m really relieved to be honest with you,” said Darr of his decision to exit. “Now I can quit being so reserved, I can be outspoken. I don’t have to worry about how will this statement or how will this position affect me in the primary.”
He’s not willing to throw his endorsement to any candidate yet, which could include announced Republican candidates Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) or newcomer Tommy Moll. Darr said he had spoken with Moll and the two said they wanted to make introductions.
Darr also said that he has spoken with former Fourth District candidate Beth Ann Rankin, whom Darr considers a “great friend of mine.” Darr confirms what she has said publicly in that she is still considering a run.
“I think it’s a Republican seat regardless. I don’t mean that disrespectfully to the other side, but I just think it is,” he said.
Rumors are flying that Darr could eye a term-limited state legislative seat or a county elective post, or even remain in the Lt. Governor’s race despite the fact that Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) and Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley) have already thrown their hats in the ring. He could avoid running for any position and simply help candidates who want his assistance.
“Ultimately, I’m going to do what’s right for my family. If it means running, then it means running. If it means not running, then it means not running,” Darr said.
STATE OF POLITICS
Darr’s recent experience has had an impact on his political perspective.
He’s all right with the revelation of his campaign finance problems and how it unfolded, despite it tripping up his campaign.
“I’m quite all right with the things that have been brought out and I’m going to address it,” he said. “The Mark in me wants to fight, every time somebody says something about me, I want to take them down, but I am a happier person when I’m not angry at people.”
Darr said he knows Republicans and Democrats who take great pleasure in other people’s downfalls and its problematic for the state and country.
“When you see somebody make a mistake, there’s a difference between bringing it to the public’s attention and hopefully getting it fixed, regardless of who that person is, or rejoicing in a person’s misery. I actually feel sorry for those people,” he said. “Maybe I was supposed to run to realize just how important family and friends are.”
“I think the more things like this that happen that drive normal people away from politics, the closer Little Rock is going to get to Washington, D.C.,” Darr added. “I’m not a cutthroat person, I’m not a vengeful person. I get angry, but I’m not going to walk around on a fact-finding tour and for the next 15 months have my staff pull everybody’s financial filings and we’re going to go through them with a fine-toothed comb and report who’s doing them right and who’s doing it wrong.”
“I think I’m a normal person. I’m an ordinary person that ran for office. Regardless if I continue or not, I want to be a normal person. I think that’s the question I have to answer for myself: can I continue and still be myself? As soon as I get that answer, I think I’ll know if I’m done with politics.”