LITTLE ROCK — Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr said Tuesday he will not run for governor in 2014, and he threw his support behind former Congressman Asa Hutchinson for the GOP nomination.
In a statement released by his office, Darr did not say whether he planned to seek re-election next year but that he would discuss his political future after the Legislature adjourns.
"I have received support and encouragement to run for this office and I am very humbled and appreciative," Darr said. "During this time, Kim and I have prayerfully considered this important decision. We have decided that this race is not the right choice for us at this time."
Hutchinson, who was the GOP nominee for governor in 2006 and lost to Gov. Mike Beebe, announced earlier this year that he will again seek the party’s nomination.
Republican Curtis Coleman has also announced his candidacy for governor, and former GOP gubernatorial candidate and natural gas executive Sheffield Nelson said Tuesday that his is considering a run for governor either as a Republican or independent.
Nelson, who lost races for governor in 1990 and 1994, said he has been approached by "a significant number of people with money" who have discussed a potential run for governor next year.
"I think its too early to say what’s going to happen in 2014, so I’m just listening right now," Nelson told Roby Brock, Arkansas News Bureau business columnist and Talk Business Arkansas editor.
Darr’s predecessor as lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, is the only announced candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He made public his intentions the same day Attorney General Dustin McDaniel bowed out of the race, saying his admission of an extramarital affair would be a distraction in a race that should be about jobs, education and other pressing issues facing the state.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson said Tuesday the appreciated the support of Arkansas’ top Republican elected official and that Darr’s endorsement gave his campaign an early boost.
"Mark’s leadership and endorsement will help unify our party as we seek the strongest candidate to win in 2014," Hutchinson said in a news release. "Mark has established himself as a vigorous campaigner and tireless advocate for Arkansas during his time in public service. There is no doubt that Mark has many opportunities to continue his path of public service and we are all interested in his future plans."
Darr said later he has decided on his next political move and would disclose his decision by the end of the legislative session. The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate during legislative session. Among the possibilities are seeking re-election or running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor.
"I’m not trying to tease anybody with a big secret but I’ve pretty much made up my mind," Darr told Talk Business. "I fully intend to continue to serve the people of Arkansas and I’m excited about that opportunity."