Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is dropping out of the race for governor, he announced in an email to supporters this afternoon.
"I had hoped that I could shape the 2014 gubernatorial debate with my vision for the future. Unfortunately, I am now convinced that if I run for Governor, this campaign would be about me personally, rather than Arkansas's future," McDaniel said in the statement.
"I believe it's in the best interests of my family, our state and the Democratic Party for me to not run for Governor," McDaniel added.
The news of McDaniel's exit from the race was first reported by the Associated Press.
With McDaniel out, former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D) will file paperwork to enter the race, a spokesperson said, per the AP. Halter ran against former Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010, receiving significant support from labor unions and outside progressive groups. Halter lost by 2 points in a primary runoff election, and was seen as McDaniel's biggest primary challenger in next year's race.
State Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter has also expressed interest in the race. "I've made a decision in that race, but now is not the time to discuss that," Burkhalter told the AP on Friday. “At some point in time, I'll make that announcement with my wife and my children.”
Arkansas Democratic Party Communications Dir. Candace Martin said Democrats were still confident they could keep the governor’s mansion in 2014, and they expected to have a “competitive campaign” going into the election.
Over on the Republican side, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson has said that he will run and expects to make his candidacy official after he wraps up his work with the National Rifle Association on school safety.
McDaniel was once considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but his campaign was upended when he admitted last month to an extramarital relationship with a local attorney.
Following his admission, McDaniel waited three weeks to speak to the media about the affair, and many speculated at the time that he might have been planning to drop out. But in a press conference on Jan. 8, McDaniel said that there wasn't "another shoe to drop," and that he felt good about his gubernatorial campaign.
McDaniel's spokesperson, Isaac Wright, said earlier this month that the campaign reached its 2012 fundraising goals, despite the scandal.
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