Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe (search) formally announced his candidacy for governor Tuesday, promising to make "the best in Arkansas available to everyone."

The announcement had long been considered a given for the Democrat, a former state Senate leader who for many of his 20 years in the Legislature was considered among the most powerful lawmakers in the state.

"I believe in an Arkansas that provides health care for its children, that demands the highest education standards from both its pupils and its teachers, that competes for jobs of the 21st century not only with its neighbors but with the nation and the world," Beebe told a crowd of more than 300 people who filled the courthouse square in his hometown.

Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee (search) cannot seek a third four-year term next year because of term limits.

"This is not a dream. This is what our state can become," he said. "This is not a political promise, it is a commitment to make the best in Arkansas available to everyone."

Two Republicans, billionaire Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller (search) and former congressman and Homeland Security undersecretary Asa Hutchinson (search), have said they will run for governor but have not made formal announcements. No other Democrats have expressed interest.

Beebe chose not to run for governor in 1998 following a public corruption scandal in which two of his former Senate colleagues ultimately were sentenced to prison for using their influence to bilk millions from state programs.

Unable to seek another Senate term 2002, he opted to run for the attorney general's office, which in the past has been a Democratic stepping stone to the governor's office.