Arkansas Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr ended speculation about his own 2014 gubernatorial ambitions Tuesday by endorsing former GOP Rep. Asa Hutchinson.
"I have fielded many questions over the past few months from friends and supporters concerning the 2014 gubernatorial race," Darr said in a statement. "We have decided that this race is not the right choice for us at this time. I am happy to announce my support of my friend, Asa Hutchinson for Governor of our great state. I intend to do anything that Asa deems helpful to assist him in his race for our state's highest office."
Darr was considered the biggest potential primary rival for Hutchinson. His endorsement is another sign of state Republicans rallying around Hutchinson, who is largely considered the frontrunner, though he has said he won't officially announce his candidacy until after he has wrapped up a study on school safety for the National Rifle Association.
"Mark Darr is the top elected Republican official in the State of Arkansas and his support for governor is deeply appreciated and gives our campaign an early boost," Hutchinson said in a statement.
With Darr's exit, only two other Republicans remain in Hutchinson's path -- Safe Foods CEO Curtis Coleman, who announced a bid earlier this month, and GOP state Sen. Johnny Key, who has also expressed interest in the race -- at least for now. Neither, however, seems to pose a viable threat to Hutchinson, who has built up a donor base and name recognition since his 2006 gubernatorial bid.
Darr is thought to be looking at challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and reiterated that he would announce his plans for 2014 after the current state legislative session ends on March 21.
Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is the only Democratic candidate to have announced a bid for Gov. Mike Beebe's (D) seat, since Attorney General Dustin McDaniel withdrew from the race on January 25. Other names being floated on the Democratic side include State Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter, state Sen. Keith Ingram, Interim Higher Education dir. Shane Broadway, former Rep. Mike Ross, former state Rep. Chris Thomason and state Sen. Robert Thompson.
Beebe is term-limited.