Tuesday, October 22, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Griffin: He’s not done yet

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock) announced Monday he would not seek a third term in 2014 as our 2nd District congressman and will spend more time with his family. He’ll stick around for another year until the end of his second term, but he told us yesterday he has no plans to run for statewide office anytime soon.

Griffin did tell us he would look seriously at some race down the road, and in the meantime, “I will stay engaged in politics,” he said.

Starting in January, Congress will pick up the fight over Obamacare and the debt limit. Griffin is certain to be in the middle of that fight again, although he told us Tuesday the shutdown was a mistake and it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of that fiasco anytime soon. The debt limit fight will be less dramatic next time since big-business Republicans have signaled that a default on the nation’s debt would be catastrophic.

No shutting down the government and defaulting on the debt, Griffin told us: “If you want to make big, bold changes, you need to win elections,” he said.

Apart from his desire to spend more time with his young family, Griffin’s decision makes sense to us because we’d assumed he would run against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) next year. Either because of his friendship with Pryor or inability to line up support for such a candidacy — big money is backing Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) against Pryor — it makes sense that Griffin would leave trench warfare in the House for a tranquil life in the private sector.

Then, too, the announcement by former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays that he’s running as a Democrat may have been a factor in Griffin’s decision to bow out.

In 2010, Griffin polled 59 percent when he ran against Sen. Joyce Elliott, a liberal black legislator from Little Rock, but he received only 55 percent when he was challenged by attorney Herb Rule, whose DWI arrests made headlines during the race. A possible race against Hays would have been closer, and, in fact, one Democratic poll supposedly showed Griffin trailing.

Griffin understands that the 16-day shutdown did not work out well for the Republicans, who gained nothing in their fight over Obamacare and blinked when it came to averting a default on the nation’s debt.

Republicans were in trouble from the start, when the military objected while half of its 800,000 civilian workers were furloughed, including hundreds at Little Rock Air Force Base, which insisted the workers were critical to national security. The base commissary was closed for several days and men and women on base worried they might not get a paycheck in October.

Public support for Republicans plummeted: According to a CNN poll this week, 75 percent of the voters disapprove of the way the GOP runs the House of Representatives. Voters may not understand the minutiae of Obamacare or why Congress must raise the debt limit, but the public realizes that giving federal workers two weeks off with pay during the shutdown was a terrible waste.

Griffin believes that spending cuts must accompany increases in the debt limit. That didn’t happen this time because the shutdown took center stage, he said. He’ll stick around another 15 months and do what he can to achieve his goals for a leaner government.

He’s always been responsive to our requests for interviews and has been terrific servicing his constituents. We will miss him if he doesn’t run for statewide office someday.