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U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s decision not to seek a third term opens door for Arkansas Democrats

Griffin’s Little Rock-based district is the least Republican in the Natural State

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CFP) — GOP U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s surprise announcement October 21 that he would not seek re-election has given Democrats hope that they might be able to capture his seat after going 0-for-4 in House races in the Natural State in 2012.

Just a day after Griffin stepped aside, former North Little Mayor Pat Hays announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District seat. The popular Hays served six terms as mayor of North Little Rock, the second-largest city in the district, before retiring in 2012.

In a kickoff speech in front of a senior center named for him, Hays, 66, said he was spurred into running for Congress by the recent government shutdown.

“Sixteen days in October was a travesty,” Hays said. “Real people are affected when you have the kind of action those 16 days gave us.”

Other Democrats are considering the race, including former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who dropped out of the 2014 governor’s race this past summer. No Republicans have announced so far.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

Griffin, a former U.S. Attorney and aide to Karl Rove in the Bush White House, won his seat in the Republican landslide in 2010 and easily won re-election in 2012. His decision not to seek a third term – at a time when he had $500,000 in campaign cash on hand — surprised the Arkansas political establishment.

In a statement announcing his decision, Griffin said he and his wife “have decided that now is the time for me to focus intently on my top priority, my family, as Elizabeth and I raise our two young children.”

The 2nd District includes eight counties in Central Arkansas, including the state’s largest county, Pulaski, which contains Little Rock. While Mitt Romney carried the district in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote, President Obama carried Pulaski County, giving Democrats hope that they might be competitive in the district.

Until Griffin won the seat in 2010, the 2nd District had been traditionally Democratic. For nearly 40 years, it was the home base of the legendary Wilbur Mills, and from 1997 until 2011, it was held by Vic Snyder.

In 2012, Republicans for the first time carried all four of Arkansas’s congressional seats. With Griffin’s departure, two of those seats are now open. The other is the 4th District, in southern and western Arkansas, which is now held by Rep. Tom Cotton, who is giving up the seat to run for the Senate.

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