LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe endorsed former congressman Mike Ross on Saturday in his bid to succeed him as the state's top elected official, touting the Democrat and former congressman as the best choice.
"Mike Ross will unite this state with a bipartisan focus on education, job creation and tax reform, and he will serve as the hardworking, compassionate leader we need to continue moving Arkansas forward," the popular governor said in remarks prepared for a Saturday news conference.
Ross, who represented south Arkansas' 4th Congressional District for 12 years, initially ruled out a run for governor last year but reconsidered and joined the race in April after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel dropped out amid questions about an extramarital relationship. Ross became the only Democratic candidate for the office last month when former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter abandoned his bid.
"I am proud and honored to accept Governor Beebe's endorsement," Ross said in a prepared statement. "Governor Beebe has served this state well and the reason he's the most popular governor in America is because he always puts good public policy over partisan politics and he always puts Arkansas first."
Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman and state Rep. Debra Hobbs are seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Beebe defeated Hutchinson in the 2006 election and won re-election in 2010. Beebe is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
The governor's endorsement was expected after Halter dropped out. Beebe, a former state senator and attorney general who served in the Legislature with Ross, has been popular despite Republicans making major gains recently. The GOP won control of the state Legislature in the November election for the first time since Reconstruction.
Since joining the race, Ross has raised more money than his Republican rivals, reporting $1.7 million in the bank.
Beebe's endorsement came a day after Ross criticized Hutchinson for proposing a gradual reduction in the state's income tax and him of not telling voters which taxes would have to be raised or services cut to make up for the revenue loss. Hutchinson accused Ross of embracing the status quo and called his comments fear-mongering.
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