Former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross official portrait. (Photo: Mike Ross Twitter)
PRESCOTT, ARK. - Former small business owner, state senator and U.S. Congressman Mike Ross formally declared his candidacy on Wednesday to seek the Democratic nomination for governor of Arkansas.
Surrounded by family, friends and supporters in his hometown of Prescott in southwestern Arkansas, the event kicked off a statewide announcement tour, Ross said, where he plans to visit more than 30 communities throughout the state in 10 days, including Texarkana, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock on Wednesday.
Ross said his campaign would focus on Arkansas's future - particularly in the areas of education and economic development - and that he would use his experience to bring people together, fight for middle-class families and move Arkansas forward.
"I'm running for governor, because I love our state and the people who call Arkansas home and because my desire to serve has never been greater," said Ross in his announcement. "I'm running for governor to build on the foundation and progress that Governor Beebe has made in the areas of education and economic development. And, I'm running for governor, because I believe in our future and want to use my experience of bringing people together to unite our state and move Arkansas forward."
The hometown celebration kicked off a statewide tour for Ross, with similar rallies in Texarkana, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock.
Ross made the announcement in the foreground of his hometown's industrial park, which he said represented both the successes and challenges facing communities around the state. Recognizing Firestone, a company which last year dedicated a $36 million expansion project at its Prescott facility saving or creating 500 jobs, Ross said there have been some success stories in Arkansas like Firestone, but that many challenges remain.
"Like Prescott, we have too many industrial parks around this state that are too much park, and not enough industry...too many storefronts in town squares and on Main Streets that are boarded up or empty...and too many communities on the verge of collapse because a factory left town," said Ross. "But, as our economy recovers and gets stronger every day, I believe we stand on the cusp of an economic revolution in Arkansas. That's why education and job creation must be this state's top priorities. When I'm elected, you will have a governor that will work day and night to provide more educational opportunities and be this state's biggest economic ambassador, because I believe in the future of Arkansas and its people."
Ross, whose parents were both public school educators, said his campaign would also focus on improving education and better job training to prepare all Arkansans to graduate and get a job.
"We must ensure our children and grandchildren have the educational opportunities they deserve, including access to a world-class education with well-paid teachers and safe schools," said Ross. "We must have the best community colleges and the strongest universities, so that we can ensure Arkansas will have the highly-skilled, well-educated workforce needed to attract the good-paying, high-tech jobs of the future. Every single child born in Arkansas should have faith that if they work hard, play by the rules and study, they can reach their God-given potential and achieve their dreams - and they shouldn't have to leave Arkansas to do so."
Ross ended his announcement by promising to put forth policies throughout the campaign that will define his work as governor and shape his vision for Arkansas.
"Over the course of this campaign, we will propose policies and plans that tackle the big issues and put our state on a course to lead the nation in this new century," said Ross. "As governor, I will be a steady, compassionate and fair leader who listens, and I will use my experience of bringing people together to get results for middle-class families. And, as your governor, my pledge to you will be what it has always been: that I will never stop fighting for you and the common sense, Arkansas values we were raised on and still believe in."
Bio of Mike Ross from campaign:
Ross, born in Texarkana, Ark., is a fifth-generation Arkansan raised in Prescott, Emmet and Hope. He graduated from Hope High School and from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), working as a radio announcer to pay his way through college. For 14 years, he owned and operated a family pharmacy with his wife, Holly, in their hometown of Prescott.
In 1990, Ross was elected to the Arkansas State Senate at age 29, then the youngest member in the State Senate, and served alongside now current Governor Mike Beebe. In 2000, Ross beat U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey to win a seat in Congress representing Arkansas's Fourth Congressional District - a district that covered much of southern and western Arkansas. That year, Ross was the only Democrat outside of California to unseat a Republican incumbent.
Ross left Congress in January 2013 after choosing not to seek a seventh term. He briefly returned to the private sector to work at the Little Rock-based, non-profit Southwest Power Pool, before resigning as an officer and senior vice president to run for governor.
Ross has been married to his wife, Holly, for 30 years and they have two grown children. They are members of the Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock, where they now reside.
For more information about Mike Ross or his campaign, visit www.MikeRoss.com.