Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that all statewide offices in Arkansas are held by Republicans. The state’s governor, attorney general and auditor are Democrats. This version has been updated.
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) said Monday that he will not seek reelection next year, an unexpected announcement that could present Democrats with an opportunity to reclaim a seat in the Deep South.
Widely considered a rising star likely to seek higher office, Griffin was part of the 2010 tea party wave that has become an influential, even dominant, bloc of the House GOP. But less than three years after arriving in Washington, he said Monday that the pressures of modern-day politics and parenthood can’t mix for him — at least for now.
The decision “shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who actually knows me,” Griffin said in an interview.
During the recent government shutdown and the subsequent standoff between the House and Senate, Griffin was seen pushing a stroller carrying one of his children in and out of closed meetings with the House Republican Conference — a rare sight on Capitol Hill, especially during such high-stakes meetings. He demurred Monday when asked whether he would advise other would-be candidates with young children to run for Congress.
“It would depend on your relationship with your wife, your kids and how far away you are, and it depends on what kind of family support structure you have. It’s a personal decision,” he said. “People talk about wanting term limits and, well, here’s a good example of that, I suppose.”
Griffin declined to run for governor last year after House GOP leaders appointed him to a plum spot on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. He raised about $211,000 during the latest fundraising quarter, a notable haul for a lawmaker not yet facing a challenger. But Griffin said the pressure to keep raising campaign cash meant he was asking donors for money even while contemplating retirement.
“I knew that until the decision was final, until I had decided it for sure, I needed to continue preparing for reelection,” he said. “You can’t take six months off and not raise any money. ”
Republicans control the state legislature and all but three statewide offices in Arkansas, but Griffin’s decision opens up yet another GOP-held House seat in the Natural State next year. Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is running against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) in the Senate race.
Democrat James Lee Witt, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has expressed an interest in seeking Cotton’s seat, and Griffin’s retirement creates another opportunity for Democrats eager to retake the Little Rock-area seat they held as recently as 2010. Former North Little Rock mayor Pat Hays is expected to announce his bid Tuesday, according to one senior Democratic Party official, and former lieutenant governor Bill Halter is also considering a run.
State GOP officials said Monday that several candidates are considering running to replace Griffin, who said that Republicans will hold the seat “if we put up a viable candidate.”
Before Congress, Griffin, 45, worked for the special prosecutor who investigated Henry Cisneros, the former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He later served as senior investigative counsel on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and as a top researcher at the Republican National Committee.
He worked alongside Karl Rove in George W. Bush’s White House Office of Political Affairs before briefly serving as interim U.S. attorney for Arkansas. He resigned after a scandal over the firings of U.S. attorneys.