LITTLE ROCK — A member of the powerful state Highway Commission and the president of the Little Rock School Board announced intentions Tuesday to seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2014.
Businessman John Burkhalter, appointed to the commission in 2011 after previously serving on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, announced his candidacy in a conference call with reporters. Dianne Curry, a Malvern native who was first elected to the Little Rock School Board in 2006, announced her plans in a news release.
Burkhalter is president of Burkhalter Technologies in North Little Rock. Curry is a retired Arkansas bank commission employee and a registered tax preparer and adviser. Both live in Little Rock.
Burkhalter, who had been mentioned for months as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, said Tuesday that lieutenant governor would be the best fit for him.
"My wife and I, through a lot of prayer and discussion and debate, finally decided that this was the best place for me to serve my state at this time," he said.
Burkhalter said that if elected his main focuses will be economic development and education. He said he would work to support existing businesses, attract new businesses to the state and help entrepreneurs start small businesses.
"I’m running for lieutenant to governor to create a strong work force. I want to make sure we continue our investment in our public schools so that every child has the opportunity for a world-class education in the state of Arkansas," he said.
Burkhalter also launched a website Tuesday that features a campaign video.
His decision leaves former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and former Congressman Mike Ross as the only Democratic candidates for governor.
Curry said she has been in conversations with people across Arkansas for months, "and not just wealthy political donors, but everyday, hardworking Arkansans."
"I told them I am looking at opportunities like U.S. Congress or state auditor, but the office that seems to make the most sense, that fits my experience and my abilities, is lieutenant governor," she said.
Curry said that if elected she would promote the Capitol for a Day program begun by former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, in which students spend a day visiting the state Capitol, and would advocate for healthier diets, not just in school lunches but for Arkansans of all ages. She also said she would work with the next governor and legislative leaders to attract good jobs to the state.
If elected, Curry would be the first woman to serve as Arkansas’ lieutenant governor and the first black person elected to statewide office.
"We need to give a seat at the table in state government for more women, more minorities and more working-class people," she said. "Service in elective office should not be a majority of just one gender, one race or one socioeconomic status. Otherwise, our government will not be representative of all whom it governs."
Curry said she will embark on a listening tour beginning Saturday.
The lieutenant governor serves as acting governor when the governor is out of state and as president of the state Senate during legislative sessions, with the ability to cast tie-breaking votes in that body. The job has no other official duties.
Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, a Republican, has said he intends to seek re-election to a second term next year.