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Tim Griffin: ‘This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who actually knows me’

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) surprised most of the political world early Monday by announcing that he won't run for reelection next year.

Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas was elected to the U.S. House in 2010. (Alex Wong/Getty)

But Griffin insists that anyone who knows him personally understands that he is leaving Washington next year in order to spend more time with his young children. And he all but made clear that he will mount a political comeback once the kids are a little older.

Here's a transcript of an interview with Griffin on Monday morning just a few hours after he made his announcement:

Question: If you’re leaving, why did you raise so much money last quarter?

Griffin: “It’s something my wife and I have been thinking about for about eight months. We knew that – I had a good last quarter, but it was my lowest in a while, because in August, it’s hard to fundraise. The point is, I knew that until the decision was final, until I had decided it for sure, I needed to continue preparing for reelection. You can’t take six months off and not raise any money. But I don’t think the fact that I raised money is relevant in any way. This is something we talked about a long time.

"The timing of it has everything to do with making sure we don’t leave potential successors out in the cold. We have to file in February, so that means this decision needs to be made in the next few months. I just decided, look, there’s talk of other people being interested on the other side. If I wait and announce I’m not running in February, then we’re going to have some Republicans at a serious organizational and financial disadvantage.

"So I said to my wife, we need to make this decision and give the other people an opportunity to get involved."

Question: But you're not ruling out a return to elective politics, right?

Griffin: "I’m going to spend some time with my family. My kids are really in the years where I’m starting to miss more stuff and we’re going to stay very involved in politics.

Question: Do Democrats have a good shot at your seat?

Griffin: "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I won by 20 the first time, 16 the last time. [Mitt] Romney won this district by 12, [John] McCain won it by 11, [George W.] Bush won it twice. I don’t think they [Democrats] have a shot – I think they think they have a shot. But they don’t have a shot. They are under the mistaken belief that because there was a Democrat in the seat for a long time that this is a liberal or Democrat seat. It is not. And if we put up a viable candidate, we will win this seat."

Question: Why on earth are you stepping down at such a bright moment in your career? You're on the House Ways and Means Committee, you're raising a ton of cash, you're talked about as a statewide candidate -- why leave now?

Griffin: “This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who actually knows me. The reason I didn’t run statewide – a., I got on Ways and Means, but b., I knew it would be even harder on my family. I have seven counties, a statewide race would have been 75 counties – 10 times the number of counties.

"It came as a surprise to people who only know my career and don’t know me. If you know me and how important my family is to me, then it’s not a surprise at all.

Question: You say this has to do with your family and young children. Can you recommend anyone in their 30s and 40s with young children to run for Congress in this era?

Griffin: “I would not attempt to speak for other families. It’s a very personal decision. I think a lot of it has to do with, when I have a newborn and a 3-year old, it impacts things. 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.

"I love my service, I’m going to finish my four years and be very proud of it. People talk about term limits and well, here’s a good example of that, I suppose."


Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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