Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is doing a roundabout of telephone interviews with reporters on his decision to exit the 2014 gubernatorial race.
I’ve just had a few minutes with him in a call away from his state office placed by Zac Wright, who’d been working on his campaign. The highlights:
* DECISION: “I made the final decision Wednesday. I had many times tried to play through the scenario of what a campaign would look like and how it would go. I tried to convince myself it would still be possible to run a campaign that was based on the nobility of the ideas and the issues. I knew it was going to be a harsh campaign anyway. But I had to come to grips that it was going to be about me and it was going to be very personal ….[it would be about] whether I was willing to put myself, family, supporters and the whole state through a very harsh, negative race and that’s just not what I ever wanted.”
* POLITICAL FUTURE: He won’t be on the ballot in 2014. Beyond that, “I really haven’t been able to think past the end of my term yet. I’m excited about being attorney general for the next two years and doing things I love to do in that office.”
* DID OPPONENTS PROPEL THE STORY THAT BROUGHT HIM DOWN? “I’ll leave that to the political writers.” I ask this in part because largely hidden efforts have continued, even escalated, in recent days to embarrass McDaniel with widespread distribution of compromising photos of Davis and some copies of purported messages to McDaniel last year. They offered little of relevance about McDaniel’s official conduct, but were ample fodder for embarrassment.
* HIS CAMPAIGN SURPLUS: He has about $1 million, thanks to multiple contributions from some donors, in accounts for a primary, a primary runoff and a general election. All the runoff and general election money will be returned to donors “dollar for dollar” he said. The larger sum in the primary account, which would have been tapped first, will be spent first on outstanding bills and invoices and payroll. Then, he’ll refund the remainder to donors pro rata, except that he’ll follow through on a $40,000 contribution he’d previously committed to the Arkansas Democratic Party for its Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. He could transfer the whole surplus to the party for its political use, but he said refunds of most of the surplus was “the appropriate thing to do.”
* DID POTENTIAL FOR MORE HARM FROM THE ANDI DAVIS CONNECTION DRIVE HIS DECISION: “There’s no way to predict what might have happened, but I do think there’s enough out there now to be a good source of salacious attacks.” He volunteered that he stands behind his statement at the news conference that there was “no other shoe to drop,” no other inappropriate relationships to be disclosed.
* HIS PERSONAL LIFE WITH FAMILY: [Wife] “Bobbi and I dealt with the personal issues ourselves some time ago. My family life is good. I think that I had to be responsible about what I am willing to put my family and friends through.”
* BREAKING NEWS: The original story.
* ANNOUNCEMENT: Bill Halter is in. More likely to come. John Burkhalter almost for sure. Mike Ross maybe. And others.
UPDATE: Burkhalter said that while he has made a decision, this “was not an appropriate time to talk about” whether he’ll run.