The leading candidate to be U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas has withdrawn, the Arkansas Times reported Tuesday.
Michael Barnes, a partner at the Little Rock firm Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP, said in a statement that he was withdrawing his name from consideration.
“It was an honor to be considered but I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration,” Barnes said in a statement published by the newspaper. “This process has taken a very long time, but it is now time for me to get back to my law practice and the great firm of Wright Lindsey and Jennings. I’m certain an outstanding person will ultimately be selected to fill this very important position.”
Barnes, a civil litigation specialist who previously served as the prosecuting attorney in Pulaski County, Ark., is the son of U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes of the Western District of Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Times.
The Little Rock U.S. Attorney’s office has not had a Senate-approved head since 2006. U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins served as the office’s head from 2001 until the summer of 2006, when he was asked to resign so Tim Griffin, a protege of White House adviser Karl Rove, could take his place. Griffin served as interim U.S. Attorney from late 2006 until he resigned in June 2007. Jane Duke, the current interim U.S. Attorney, has headed the office since Griffin’s resignation.
Barnes is the second candidate for U.S. Attorney post in Arkansas to withdraw. In February, Carlton Jones, the leading candidate for the Western District of Arkansas U.S. Attorney, withdrew, citing family considerations and puzzlement about the opaque nominating process.
In May 2009, Arkansas’ Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor recommended three candidates for the top spot in the Little Rock-based U.S. Attorney’s office — Barnes; Christopher R. Thyer, a trial lawyer with Stanley & Thyer in Jonesboro; and Edward O. Walker, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District.
At the same time, the senators also made recommendations for the state’s other U.S. Attorney office in Fort Smith — William Conner Eldridge Jr., a 31-year-old chief executive officer of Summit Bank; Arkansas Assistant Attorney General Shawn J. Johnson; and Western District Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Plumlee.
But President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a candidate to head either U.S. Attorney’s office, more than 18 months into his first term.
Lincoln, a two-term senator, is in a tough fight for reelection after winning a contentious Democratic primary earlier this year. In a recent poll, Lincoln trailed her Republican challenger, Rep. John Boozman, by 19 percentage points.
Obama is also not very popular in the state. A compilation of Gallup polls measuring presidential popularity found that only 40 percent of Arkansas natives approve of the job Obama is doing as president.
This post has been updated since it was first published.