Democrats Aggressively Recruiting For Griffin’s Arkansas Seat

The Little Rock district favors Republicans, but Democrats think they can recruit a credible candidate.

Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
Oct. 21, 2013, 9:01 a.m.

Arkan­sas GOP Rep. Tim Griffin sur­prised Re­pub­lic­ans by an­noun­cing that he’ll re­tire in 2014 after just two terms in of­fice, giv­ing na­tion­al Demo­crats hope that they’ll be able to con­test a seat in an in­creas­ingly Re­pub­lic­an state.

Griffin was widely as­sumed to be seek­ing reelec­tion, and had raised more than $200,000 in each of the last two fun­drais­ing quar­ters. He passed up a Sen­ate cam­paign in or­der to re­main on the in­flu­en­tial House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee earli­er this year.

Both parties have a deep bench of can­did­ates look­ing to suc­ceed Griffin. For Re­pub­lic­ans, state Sen. Dav­id Sanders and French Hill, the founder, chair­man and CEO of Delta Trust & Bank­ing Corp., are both con­sidered po­ten­tial can­did­ates, ac­cord­ing to a na­tion­al GOP op­er­at­ive.

Na­tion­al Demo­crats had already trained re­sources in­to Arkan­sas, hop­ing to re­cruit a cred­ible chal­lenger against Griffin. Party op­er­at­ives noted that it is the most com­pet­it­ive dis­trict in the state, with Mitt Rom­ney win­ning 55 per­cent of the vote there. And they thought Griffin’s sup­port for the oil in­dustry could be­come a vul­ner­ab­il­ity giv­en a ma­jor oil spill with­in the dis­trict this year.

Demo­crats are pro­mot­ing former North Little Rock May­or Patrick Henry Hays, who was sched­uled to an­nounce his can­did­acy for the Second Dis­trict seat on Tues­day even be­fore Griffin made his plans known, ac­cord­ing to a Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ive. To wit, his web­site ( Patrick­Henry­, which was act­ive as re­cently as two weeks ago, now ap­pears to be un­der con­struc­tion.

Hays served for six terms as may­or, where he re­vital­ized the small town north of a ma­jor Demo­crat­ic en­clave. He re­tired last year at age 65. Should he jump in­to the race to­mor­row, he’d have a head-start on the rest of the field, still reel­ing from Griffin’s un­ex­pec­ted an­nounce­ment.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Hal­ter was ini­tially the party fa­vor­ite for the seat. Na­tion­al and state Demo­crats pushed Hal­ter early on to drop out of the gubernat­ori­al race — which he did, in Ju­ly — in or­der to chal­lenge Griffin. But Hal­ter struggled to raise money in the gubernat­ori­al race and has been si­lent about the House race in re­cent months, an in­dic­a­tion his in­terests may lie else­where. He’s also an out­spoken pro­gress­ive, and could have trouble win­ning over more con­ser­vat­ive voters ne­ces­sary to win a GOP-lean­ing House dis­trict.

Oth­er po­ten­tial Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates in­clude Con­way May­or Tab Town­sell, former state Rep. Linda Tyler and Little Rock School Board Pres­id­ent Di­anne Curry, who dropped a bid for lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor earli­er this year and said in Ju­ly that she had spoken to EMILY’s List about run­ning for Griffin’s seat.

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