January 20, 2005 --Posted 5:00 p.m. CDT
Jonesboro, AR -- It's official. Congressman Mike Ross of Prescott says he will not run for Arkansas Governor in 2006. The democrat had indicted for months that he was considering a run, but earlier this week Ross changed his mind, settling instead for a new position on a House committee.
Ross' departure now leaves the door wide open for Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe.
"I think he knew that he couldn't beat Beebe for the democratic nomination, and so he did the smart thing and stayed in Congress," said political analyst Jim Burton.
Beebe has not officially thrown his hat in the ring, but continues to keep a high profile across the state. Back in December he responded to the speculation about his candidacy.
"I think it distracts a little from the office if I get out there and start talking about that stuff too soon," said Beebe.
On the republican side, things are get interesting. Although neither man has committed to a run for the top job, Lieutenant Governor Win Rockefeller, and former Congressman, and Undersecretary for Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson are rumored to be eyeing the position. Rockefeller is making himself more visible at republican functions across the state. And after being passed up for Homeland Security Director, Hutchinson says he may come back to the Natural state. Some believe the front runner on the republican side will emerge when the current Governor Huckabee eventually speaks out.
"I think the governor holds the key to that nomination. He's got people that will support him and go which way he goes, if you will," said Burton.
In either case, Burton believes Beebe would likely face a harder run for his money if he takes on Rockefeller.