WASHINGTON — Congressman Tim Griffin, who represents the 2nd District of Central Arkansas, said Monday he will not seek re-election to a third term in office.
In a telephone interview, Griffin said the decision to leave Congress after two terms comes down to family.
“It’s really about my time and my kids time,” said Griffin, R-Little Rock. “My kids are in their formative years.”
After several months of deliberation, Griffin said he and his wife, Elizabeth, decided they could not commit to an additional two more years in Congress where Griffin’s time would be taken away from their son, John, and daughter, Mary Katherine.
“The long term thought process for Elizabeth and I was a decision of one year or three years. We just couldn’t commit as a family to three years,” he said.
Griffin said the timing of the decision was not driven by the recent shutdown and battles over the Affordable Care Act that have the public fuming and have seen plummeting approval ratings for politicians inside the Beltway. Instead, it was to give enough time for a Republican to step into the campaign.
“I want to make sure whomever wants to fill this seat has a level playing field,” he said.
Leading up to his announcement, Griffin showed no sign that he wasn’t preparing for a re-election campaign, raising more cash between July and September than either Crawford or Womack. Griffin’s campaign took in $211,179 during the third quarter and ended September with $540,176 cash on hand, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Griffin said he has not made any decision about his future career path but insisted it will be in Arkansas.
“This is our home,” he said.
In a press release from his campaign, Griffin said that beyond Congress he intends to continue in public service, including as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.
David Wasserman, a political analyst for Cook Political Report, said Griffin’s departure could signal an interest in running for state office at some point.
“The odds of eventually becoming a governor or senator is not necessarily enhanced by serving any longer in the House which is a deeply unpopular institution,” Wasserman said.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, issued a statement praising Griffin for his time in Congress and his efforts in behalf of the Republican Party. Griffin serves as vice chairman for communications and strategy for the NRCC.
“Tim has helped strengthen our majority and improve our party’s message,” Walden said.
Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, who were first elected to Congress with Griffin in 2010, issued statements praising Griffin for his service to Arkansas.
“Tim Griffin is a trusted and valued member of the House, a principled conservative, and a dedicated servant to the people of Arkansas. I will certainly miss having him as part of the Arkansas delegation,” Womack said. “At the same time, I know the impact this job can have on a family, understand the desire to be closer to one’s young children, and respect his decision.”
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and Arkansas GOP Chairman Doyle Webb also issued statements wishing Griffin well and thanking him for his service to the state.
Vincent Insalaco, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said in a statement that Griffin’s departure was not surprising given voter outrage over the recent government shutdown.
“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,” Insalaco said
State Democratic Party spokesman Patrick Burgwinkle went further, saying the timing of Griffin’s announcement could foretell difficult times ahead for 4th District Congressman Tom Cotton’s Senate challenge against incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.
“It is evident the shutdown and near default has damaged Republicans in Arkansas,” Burgwinkle said in a telephone interview Monday. “And, the implications are there for Tom Cotton, a cheerleader for shutting down the government in the House, as a lot of polling is coming back saying the GOP is bearing the brunt of this shutdown.”
Added Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, “Before the shutdown Griffin was running for re-election and now he is not. This is a tangible thing after the shutdown that is a benefit to Democrats.”
Several national polls have shown that more voters blamed Republicans than Democrats for the shutdown.
Burgwinkle said he anticipated that Griffin would have faced a competitive race and his departure gives Democrats “an even better chance” of taking the seat in 2014. Several Democrats have expressed some level of interest in running but no one had publicly announced by Monday.
Rob Moritz of the Arkansas News Bureau contributed to this report.