Gov. Mike Beebe on Tuesday (Jan. 8) said Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s “inappropriate” relationship will be a problem in his gubernatorial bid, but Beebe refused to be drawn into a discussion about who should or should not be in the race.
Beebe is term limited and the 2014 race for Arkansas’ top statewide office will be a open race. McDaniel, a Democrat, and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson are the only two candidates to announce their intent to run.
McDaniel admitted Dec. 18 he had an “inappropriate” and “limited interaction” with a Hot Springs attorney in 2011, but details of an alleged affair are limited. The revelation is part of an ongoing domestic dispute in Garland County Circuit Court between Andrea L. “Andi” Davis and her estranged husband, Frederick N. “Fred” Day, two Hot Springs residents involved in a divorce and child custody case.
“Well, it’s not helpful. Quantifying how much, I don’t have any idea,” Beebe said when asked how much McDaniel’s affair would hurt his election chances.
Beebe participated in an Internet-televised interview Tuesday morning with Roby Brock of Talk Business.
When asked if he thought McDaniel’s presence in the race would hurt the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the office in 2014, Beebe refused to offer “any inference” that might suggest who should or shouldn’t run.
But will he support the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary?
“We’ll see, but probably,” Beebe said.
McDaniel conducted a press conference Thursday morning – shortly after the Beebe interview by Brock – saying he would remain in the race.
“There is no other shoe to drop. … There are no other women,” McDaniel said, adding that he was “deeply ashamed” about the incident.
In what will be his final regular Legislative session of his 30-year political career, Beebe said his focus will be on the two subjects he always promoted: education and economic development.
“You have to address both of those,” Beebe said, for any chance of improving the state’s overall socio-economic status.
He added that he hopes the Legislature will address education and economic development in a way “that will allow us to be competitive.” Beebe also teased that his legislative package may include legislation needed to bring about a large economic development project.
Addressing an estimated $350 million shortfall in Medicaid funding will likely be the biggest issue during the Legislative session set to begin Jan. 14.
While Beebe and Legislative leaders – specifically Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, and House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot – have said they will some budget surplus money to address the shortfall, the disagreement is building around the amount.
Beebe plans to use $70 million a year – $140 million in the two-year budget cycle – and about $139 million in planned cuts to address the shortfall. Lamoureux and Carter may propose using more of the surplus money.
“It becomes a question of how much more, and who do you take it away from?” Beebe said when asked about negotiating with Lamoureux and Carter.
Beebe also said he has an obligation to end his term by leaving the state as fiscally sound as possible.
“I don’t want to leave the next governor or the next legislature in a deeper hole,” Beebe said.