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Arkansas U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin is running for lieutenant governor

Griffin, who announced in October that he was leaving Congress, enters a crowded GOP primary

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Less than four months after announcing he would leave Congress to spend more time with his family, U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin has entered the lieutenant governor’s race back home in Arkansas.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

In interviews with local Little Rock media February 13, Griffin said serving as lieutenant governor would allow him to remain with his young children in Arkansas rather than living in Washington.

The state’s number two spot would also set up Griffin for a potential run for governor in 2018.

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 in the House – at a time when he had $500,000 in campaign cash on hand — surprised the Arkansas political establishment.

His entry into the lieutenant governor’s race has already shaken up the GOP prmary, with one of the announced candidates, State Rep. Charlie Collins, exiting the race. Still in the running are State Reps. Andy Mayberry and Debra Hobbs.

Hobbs had been running for governor but announced February 12 that she would run for lieutenant governor instead.

On the Democratic side, John Burkhalter, a state highway commissioner, is the only announced candidate and has been endorsed by the likely Democractic candidate for governor, former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross.

The lieutenant governor’s office is currently vacant after Republican Mark Darr resigned rather than face likely impeachment for ethics violations. The state legislature is currently considering a bill to leave the office vacant until after the November election, rather than calling a special election to replace Darr.

Pressure builds on Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr to resign

Democratic Governer Mike Beebe and state’s Republican congressional delegation all call on Darr to step down for violating ethics rules

♦By Rich Shumate,

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr is under increasing pressure to resign, after the state ethics commission fined him $11,000 for misusing campaign funds during his 2010 campaign.

Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr

Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr

Darr, a Republican, accepted that fine on December 30. But in a letter to the commission, he blamed sloppy record-keeping for the violations, insisting that he never “intentionally took money that didn’t belong to me.”

While Darr has not made any public statements since the ethics committee announced its decision, his attorney told local media that he has no plans to step aside.

But a day after the fines were handed down, Democratic Governor Mike Beebe said it would be “in everybody’s interest, including Mr. Darr, if he resigned.”

Perhaps more ominously for Darr, his fellow Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation — U.S. Senator John Boozman and U.S. Reps. Tom Cotton, Tim Griffin, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford — issued a very blunt joint statement calling on Darr to go.

“As elected officials, we are keepers of the public trust. We are bound by a very strict code of conduct that is the basis of that trust,” the statement said. “Based on Lt. Gov. Darr’s own admissions, it is clear he has violated that trust, and he should step down immediately for the good of our state.”

Darr is the second statewide constitutional officer to run into trouble this year. Former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, a Democrat, resigned after she was indicted for allegedly accepting bribes from a state contractor that were delivered in a pie box. Her trial is set for July.

If Darr resigns, a special election would be held to pick his replacement.

Darr, 40, a restaurant owner from Springdale, had never held elective office before winning the lieutenant governorship in 2010. He based his campaign, in part, on opposition to Obamacare.

In its report, the ethics commission said Darr made personal use of more than $31,000 in campaign funds and charged more than $3,500 of personal expenses on a state-issued credit card. He was also cited for receiving improper reimbursement for nearly $3,600 in travel expenses from his home in Springdale to his office in Little Rock.

He was also cited for mistakes in his campaign finance reports.

The ethics complaint against Darr was filed by Democratic blogger Mark Campbell, first reported in his Blue Hog Report.

After the ethics issues surfaced last summer, Darr abandoned his campaign for the 4th District seat in the U.S. House. He has not announced whether he would seek a second term as lieutenant governor.

Two Republicans, State Reps. Andy Mayberry and Charlie Collins, have announced they are running for lieutenant governor. Democrat John Burkhalter, a state highway commissioner, is also running.

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