GOP Retirement Sparks Competitive House Race in Arkansas

Griffin will not seek a third term. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Griffin will not seek a third term. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted October 21, 2013 at 2:44pm

Two-term Rep. Tim Griffin’s unexpected retirement announcement will likely spur a crowded GOP primary for a competitive seat that Democrats hope to pick up in 2014.

Democrats had been targeting Arkansas’ 2nd District even before the Republican lawmaker announced Monday he wasn’t running for re-election. On Sunday, Griffin alerted GOP leadership of his retirement after just two terms in the House, according to a national Republican operative.

Hours after Griffin’s announcement, local Republican operatives say there are now a host of potentially strong candidates eyeing bids to succeed him. Some of those GOP candidates are:

  • State Sen. Jason Rapert, an evangelical Christian who was the chief sponsor of the state’s controversial law that made abortions illegal after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • State Sen. David Sanders, whom GOP operatives say may face a tea party primary challenger if he runs for re-election to his state Senate seat.
  • State Sen. Jonathan Dismang, a cattle company owner who previously served in the state House before winning his state Senate seat in 2010.
  • State Rep. Allen Kerr, an insurance company owner elected to the state House in 2008.

Democrats argue the district could be competitive with the right candidate.

The party is touting former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays as a strong candidate who could be competitive in this district that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won with 55 percent in 2012.

Local Democrats also touted former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter as a strong candidate.

Halter has yet to make a decision, but his adviser Bud Jackson told CQ Roll Call via email, “People have been asking Bill to run because they know he’d be the strongest Democrat. Today’s decision will likely intensify the encouragement.”

Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call moved this race from the Safe Republican column to a Leans Republican contest following Griffin’s announcement.