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Collins drops out of lieutenant governor’s race, endorses Griffin


LITTLE ROCK — State Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, said Thursday he is dropping out of the lieutenant governor’s race and endorsing the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin.

Griffin, R-Little Rock, pledged to restore trust in the office of lieutenant governor if elected.

Collins said that with Griffin in the race, he has chosen instead to run for re-election to his state House seat.

“The congressman has a very broad constituent base and access to resources which makes him a crystal-clear favorite to win both the GOP primary and the general election in November, which is a good thing for Republicans because we’ll have him for our next lieutenant governor,” Collins said.

Democrat Candy Clark of Fayetteville, a member of the Washington County Quorum Court, has announced as a candidate for Collins’ House seat.

State Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, is seeking the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, as is state Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, who previously said she would run for governor but announced Wednesday she was switching races.

Former state Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter is the only announced Democrat in the race.

The lieutenant governor’s office is vacant because Republican Mark Darr resigned Feb. 1 after being fined $11,000 by the state Ethics Commission for misuse of campaign contributions and taxpayer money. A bill that would allow the office to remain vacant until the November election, instead of being filled in a special election, is being considered by the Legislature.

Griffin said in a news release that if he is elected, “I will restore trust in the office by upholding the highest standards and reforming the way the office conducts business: I will save hardworking taxpayer dollars by spending less and making better choices.

“I will reduce the number of staff and do more with less. I will continue to drive my own truck and will not ask the Arkansas State Police to provide me with personal transportation — the ASP has better, more important things to do with their resources,” he said.

In an interview, Griffin said that when he announced in October that he would not seek another term in the U.S. House, he had no plans to run for any office and did not know the lieutenant governor’s office would become vacant.

In the past few weeks, he said, he has been encouraged by a number of people to run for the office. He said the job appeals to him is because it would allow him to continue in public service while spending more time with his children, ages 3 and 6.

“They’re getting to the age where they have a lot of activities, and I’ve missed a lot of activities,” he said.

Griffin, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said his experience in Congress would allow him to serve as a resource for the governor and the Legislature in dealing with the federal government and said he would be an advocate for policies that grow jobs in the state.

He said Lisenne Rockefeller, widow of former Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller, will serve as his campaign chairman.

Burkhalter spokesman Bryan Griffith said Thursday that Burkhalter, owner of construction firm Burkhalter Technologies, has spent his career creating jobs and businesses while Griffin has been a career politician.

“While Congressman Griffin is simply looking for his next job in politics, Arkansans are looking for good-paying jobs, the best possible education for our children and work force, and lower taxes on our families,” Griffith said. “The last thing Arkansas needs is another Washington politician like Tim Griffin bringing his record of divisive politics, dysfunction and gridlock to Arkansas.”