Tim Griffin decides will not seek re-election

Ark. GOP Rep. Tim Griffin won't run for 3rd term
ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin made the unexpected announcement Monday that he won't run for a third term representing central Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Griffin's decision throws uncertainty into an election where Republicans had hoped to build upon recent gains in Arkansas. The GOP holds all four of the state's U.S. House seats, both chambers of the state Legislature and one of its two U.S. Senate seats.

"It has been an agonizing and difficult decision involving much prayer, thought and discussion," Griffin said in a statement. "We have decided that now is the time for me to focus intently on my top priority, my family, as Elizabeth and I raise our two young children."

Griffin had no announced opponents and has more than a half-million dollars in the bank for the re-election bid. He easily won re-election in 2012. Griffin, who said he had been weighing the decision over the past eight months, said he's not ruling out another run for office.

"I'm not done with politics. I think politics is a worthy enterprise," Griffin told The Associated Press. "I will stay engaged and I'm very interested in serving in elected office again."

Griffin was named to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in November, becoming the first Republican from Arkansas to serve on the tax-writing panel. At the time, Griffin said he wouldn't run for Arkansas governor or the U.S. Senate because of the appointment.

Griffin is a former interim U.S. attorney who's also worked in the White House Office of Political Affairs.

The announcement leaves two open seats in the U.S. House next year in Arkansas. The 4th congressional district is open after Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton entered the race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor. National and state Republicans have named unseating Pryor a top priority next year.

Republicans considering a run include state Sen. Jason Rapert, who said he hoped to decide in the coming days whether to seek Griffin's seat.

"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," state GOP chairman Doyle Webb said in a statement.

Several Democrats had been mentioned as potential challengers to Griffin, including former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays and former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Former state Rep. Linda Tyler of Conway said she was also weighing a bid.

Top Democrats have been encouraging Halter to seek the 2nd congressional district seat after he dropped his bid for governor in July, but a spokesman declined to say whether he was considering it.

"Bill would be the strongest Democrat to run for that seat," Halter spokesman Bud Jackson said.

Griffin's announcement comes less than a week after he voted for legislation to raise the nation's borrowing limit and re-open the federal government after it had been shuttered since Oct. 1. Griffin had previously backed efforts to link spending bills to de-funding or scaling back the federal health care law, which led to the standoff over the budget.

Griffin said his decision had nothing to do with that vote, and said he believed he was well poised to win re-election next year.

"I've seen the names of the people who have looked at running for this district on the Democrat side all of them are lockstep with President Obama and I don't see how they could win this seat against me or anyone else," Griffin told the AP.

Griffin was elected to the 2nd District in 2010, winning a long-held Democratic seat.

He was named interim U.S. attorney for eastern Arkansas in 2006 after Bud Cummins left the post. Cummins later said he was forced out by the U.S. Department of Justice, and his firing was one of several that prompted a congressional inquiry. Griffin resigned the post after six months.