Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TOP STORY >> Candidates lining up in 2nd District

Leader senior staff writer

As of noon Tuesday, former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays is the only announced candidate for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District seat, which is currently held by Tim Griffin.

Griffin, who said he wanted to spend more time with his family, turned Arkansas politics on its ear Monday by announcing that he would not seek reelection in November 2014.

Several Republicans and Democrats have expressed interest in running for Griffin’s seat.

A recent CNN poll indicated that the public anger at the government shutdown and layoffs was primarily aimed at Republicans in Congress, which could have contributed to Griffin’s decision not to run for a third term.

Hays held his first campaign rally Tuesday at the North Little Rock senior center named in his honor. Introduced by former Democratic state Sen. Mary Anne Salmon of North Little Rock and surrounded by more than 200 supporters, Hays railed against the federal government shutdown, which he said triggered his decision to run.

“Sixteen days in October was a travesty,” Hays said. “You look around and you try to find what was good about that, and there wasn’t anything. I wasn’t thinking about running for Congress in the latter part of September because I didn’t think they’d do what they did. We don’t do that at city hall; we never have. We look to solutions.

“There’s no such thing as Republican crime and Democratic garbage. Crime is crime, and garbage is garbage, and parks are parks, and problems should be solved, not kicked down the road to next month or next year like what happened. Real people are affected when you have the kinds of actions that 16 days gave us. You’ve got people that are worried about getting their Social Security checks. You’ve got federal employees furloughed — thousands of them nationally, hundreds here in Arkansas. Over 300 of our National Guard were furloughed. In fact, (Gen. William Wofford, Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard) told us those kinds of activities can’t be recovered.

“My gosh,” Hays continued. “How can they decide that things they do are not going to affect real lives? The full faith and credit of this country has never been called into question, but it has now. And now the question is if it’s going to be after the first of the year.

“We need folks like city leaders and county leaders and local officials all over the county. And, if I had a choice, I’d say get 535 mayors and council members and send them all to Washington and put a few in the Senate and the rest in the House, and we’d have things cleaned up in 10 days.” 


Rick Crawford, the 1st District representative, said on Monday, “Congressman Griffin has been an excellent public servant representing the voice of Arkansas’ 2nd District, and a great partner in achieving tangible results for our state.”

Crawford’s press secretary, Jack Pandol, said, “I can confirm that Congressman Crawford plans to run for re-election in 2014.”

A number of capable Arkansas Democrats are stepping up after the shutdown, according to Democratic Party of Arkansas spokeswoman Candace Martin.

She said the shutdown has motivated people to get off the sidelines.


James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton Administration, is expected to announce his candidacy next week to fill the 4th District Congressional seat currently held by Tom Cotton, a Tea Party Republican.

Cotton, a freshman congressman, has begun his campaign to unseat Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, currently the only Democrat among the state’s six-member congressional delegation.

For weeks there has been speculation that Hays would seek the Democratic nomination for Griffin’s seat, and his Tuesday announcement was scheduled before anyone knew Griffin would retire.


Other Democrats who have expressed interest in running for Griffin’s seat are former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, former state Rep. Linda Tyler of Conway and Conway Mayor Tab Townsell.

Republicans said to be interested, in light of Griffin’s abdication, include state Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway, state Sen. Jonathan Dismang of Beebe, Benton County Judge Lanny Fite and Little Rock Banker French Hill.

Rapert introduced several bills to restrict abortion in the last regular session of the state General Assembly. Dismang was among the Republicans who worked with House Speaker Davy Carter of Cabot, the Democrats and Gov. Mike Beebe to pass a private-option medicaid expansion for low-income Arkansans.

Hill worked for President George Herbert Walker Bush in Washington.

In announcing his retirement from Congress, Griffin said: “In September 2009, I launched my campaign for Congress as a common sense conservative and have kept my word by supporting bold but pragmatic solutions to address our most pressing problems, including a balanced budget, Medicare reform, repeal of Obamacare, tax reform and regulatory reform. I am proud that the House’s efforts resulted in the Budget Control Act (BCA), the largest spending reduction in American history. I am equally proud that the House has stopped numerous harmful proposals. I choose to be a citizen-legislator rather than a career politician, and I will continue to do my best representing my fellow Arkansans through the remainder of my term.”

Griffin hasn’t said anything about seeking another office in Arkansas, such as running for governor or attorney general.

“I’m going to stay very involved in politics and am watching for where we go next,” he said.


Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Vincent Insalaco said Monday, “You can’t shut down the government for 16 days and hurt the pocketbooks of Arkansas families without taking responsibility for your actions, and that is exactly what a small group of reckless House members have done, including Tim Griffin, Rick Crawford, and Tom Cotton.

“It is no surprise that Tim Griffin saw the writing on the wall and figured out that Arkansans were going to hold him accountable for the dysfunction in Washington. Arkansans in his district were the ones getting the short end of the stick — from those suffering from the Mayflower oil spill to military personnel who were laid off in Jacksonville. People are tired and fed up with politics as usual, and politicians like Tim Griffin have been obstructing solutions and are part of the problem with Washington,” Insalaco said.


State GOP chairman Doyle Webb sees it differently.

He said, “(Griffin) has been a trailblazer in fighting to protect the citizens of the 2nd District from the negative impacts of Obamacare, as well as a strong advocate for small businesses in the state from the unfair burden of overreaching federal regulation. We wish Congressman Griffin and his family all the best; we look forward to the service he will provide throughout the remainder of his term. Many conservative Republicans are evaluating their possible candidacy; we are confident that the people of the 2nd District will elect another strong representative to fill the big shoes of Congressman Griffin.”

Taking the first swipe at Hays, Webb said, “Patrick Hays thought it was a good idea to support President Obama’s $800 billion failed stimulus package even as our nation was facing $17 trillion in debt. Arkansas can’t afford Patrick Hays and his tax-and-spend liberal policies.

“Hays in Washington will be another vote backing President Obama and Nancy Pelosi every step of the way,” Webb said.