LITTLE ROCK — Lieutenant governor candidate John Burkhalter said Monday he is friends with both Democratic candidates for governor, and his decision to endorse one over the other was based on a shared view on economic development.
Burkhalter and former Congressman Mike Ross endorsed each other over the weekend. The two have been friends for more than a decade, and Ross said that if he is elected governor he will create an economic development cabinet and name Burkhalter chairman.
Ross faces former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014. Gov. Mike Beebe is term-limited.
"I had the opportunity to talk with both candidates and I felt confident afterwards that Mike Ross is the best choice for our state as our next governor," Burkhalter said. "It’s nothing against Bill. He is a friend. Arkansas needs him in public service. But Mike Ross is the right choice for governor at this crucial juncture in our state’s history. He has an aggressive vision for economic development and job creation in our state. I do too, and I think our ideas and our energy compliment each other."
Burkhalter and Brad Howard, a spokesman for Ross, said the political tie between the two candidates will not go beyond the endorsement of each other’s campaigns which they announced during an event Saturday.
"That’s all this Saturday was about and nothing else," Howard said.
"We will each have our own campaigns," said Burkhalter, a state highway commissioner and owner of Burkhalter Technologies.
Halter said he was not concerned whether it is appropriate for candidates for different offices to team up in a primary or how he should respond to a Ross-Burkhalter "ticket."
"These are questions that voters will decide. I’m running for governor, and not against any person or any ticket," he said. "I’m focused on innovative ideas to help move our state forward, faster and to provide more jobs and educational opportunities for all Arkansans."
Democrat Dianne Curry, a Little Rock School Board member who has announced her candidacy for lieutenant governor, said she has no plans to endorse any candidate for governor now.
"I believe as the true-blue Democrat in this race, we will let the people of Arkansas make these decisions, not some good ole boys in backrooms," she said in a statement.
Three Republicans have announced intentions to run for governor — former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, businessman Curtis Coleman and state Rep. Debra Hobbs.
Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr has not said whether he plans to seek re-election.