U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., has taken his name out of the 2014 Gubernatorial race with a surprise announcement that he will instead join Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool as senior vice president for government affairs and public relations.
Ross’ departure from the race opens the door to Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. Most political watchers saw a Ross-McDaniel primary contest in the 2014 race for the Governor’s office.
Gov. Mike Beebe is term-limited when his second term ends in January 2015.
Ross, now serving his sixth term in Congress, announced Aug. 25, 2011, he would not seek re-election. At the time, Ross said he would not make or announce a decision about his political future until after his term in Congress ends, which is January 2013. He said during a brief phone interview he would “spend the next 17 months trying to cut spending” and “putting people back to work,” rather than focusing on his political future.
But late Monday afternoon (May 14), Ross’ office sent a statement with his new plan.
“I’ve received a lot of encouragement and given serious consideration to seeking the office of Governor of Arkansas in 2014, a race that will begin early next year. However, after a lot of prayer and reflection, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2014,” Ross noted in the statement. “I announced in July 2011 that I would not be seeking a seventh term to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a result, instead of campaigning and raising money, I have been able to spend more time, including weekends, with my family for the past year. We have enjoyed getting back to a more normal way of life after 22 continuous years of elective service. This led me to the realization that there is life after politics.”
At the end of his term, Ross will have served in Congress for 12 years, and was a member of the Arkansas Senate for about 10 years.
“Therefore, following my current term in the U.S. Congress, which ends January 3, 2013, I will be joining Little Rock based Southwest Power Pool as its Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and Public Relations,” said Ross, who is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) is a non-profit Regional Transmission Organization, one of nine in North America mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure, and competitive wholesale prices of electricity. Additionally, as a North American Electric Reliability Corporation Regional Entity, SPP is one of eight that oversees compliance enforcement and reliability standards development in the electric industry. SPP has members in nine states.
“Let me assure the people of Arkansas’s Fourth Congressional District that I will remain on the job, and continue to provide them with a strong and effective voice in our nation’s capitol for the remainder of the term that I was elected to serve, just as I have tried faithfully to do from the beginning,” Ross said.
McDaniel issued a statement late Monday praising Ross’ years of service.
“I called Congressman Ross today and thanked him for his 22 years of public service and congratulated him on this exciting opportunity for him and his family,” McDaniel noted in the statement. “In his time as a member of the Arkansas Senate and the US House of Representatives Mike has worked hard to bring common sense solutions to the problems facing the people of Arkansas. I wish him all the best as he begins this next chapter of his life.”
RACE FOR THE FOURTH
The 4th Congressional District could swing to the Republican aisle in November.
Tom Cotton and former 4th District candidate Beth Anne Rankin are the frontrunners on the GOP side. In the latest Talk Business-Hendrix College poll, Cotton has a 51% to 33% lead over Rankin.
Most pundits believe the GOP candidate who emerges from the May 22 primary — or runoff — will have the advantage over the Democratic candidate in the general election.
The Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll shows that 4th District Democratic voters are undecided on their nominee for for the open seat to replace Ross.
In the latest survey, conducted among 418 likely Democratic voters on May 10, 2012, 44% have not decided for whom they will vote.
Of the 3 Democratic candidates, Q. Byrum Hurst and State Sen. Gene Jeffress (D-Louann) are neck-in-neck in the low ’20′s, while the third candidate, former U.S. Senate candidate D.C. Morrison, could be a spoiler.
23% — Q. Byrum Hurst
22% — Gene Jeffress
11% — D.C. Morrison
44% — Don’t know