Arkansas: Mike Ross Retirement May Open Door for Republican

State   |   Andrew Bair   |   Jul 26, 2011   |   11:08AM   |   Little Rock, AR

In a setback for Arkansas Democrats, Representative Mike Ross (D) announced he would retire after this current term. Rep. Ross is currently the sole Democratic member of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation. Ross is also one of the few remaining members of the dwindling Blue Dog coalition, a group of moderate Democrats hailing from Republican-leaning districts.

Rep. Ross’s decision to retire from the House all but confirms he will run for governor when Governor Mike Beebe’s term ends in 2014. Ross said in a statement, “I have received a lot of encouragement to run for Governor of Arkansas when Governor Beebe’s term ends in 2014. I’ve always been very upfront and honest in the fact that, as a fifth generation Arkansan, I love our state and would like very much to help lead it at some point in the future. Whether I run for Governor in 2014 is a decision I have not yet made and won’t make until sometime after my term in this Congress ends.”

Ross also noted that if he were reelected to Congress in 2012, “it would be impossible to successfully run for Governor” in 2014.

As a member of the Blue Dog coalition, Rep. Ross is known to frequently buck his party on key issues. Most notably, Rep. Ross voted against the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law and was one of only 3 Democrats to vote for its repeal earlier this year. In fact, for this current session, Rep. Ross has a 100% pro-life voting record from the National Right to Life Committee.

Rep. Ross voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, voted to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood and voted in favor of conscience protections for pro-life health professionals and to prevent federal funds from being used to train abortionists. Ross also broke from his party when he was one of only 19 Democrats to vote against Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader.

Nevertheless, Rep. Ross’ record is tainted by past votes for embryonic stem cell research and for campaign finance reform like the DISCLOSE Act, which would have placed restrictions on the free speech of grassroots organizations like right to life groups.

National Republican Congressional Committee Communications Director Paul Lindsay said in a statement, “Mike Ross is saving himself the task of defending the indefensible policies of his party in what would have been the toughest race of his career.”

After Ross’ announcement, Roll Call changed its rating on the race from Likely Democratic to Leans Republican. No Republican has officially unveiled a bid for the seat.