LITTLE ROCK — Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin said Thursday he’s considering running for Arkansas lieutenant governor this year, potentially shaking up the race for the state’s No. 2 office just months after announcing his retirement from Congress.
Griffin, who announced in October he wouldn’t seek a third term in Congress, said he’s been encouraged to take a look at the race and will decide in the coming weeks whether to make a bid for the GOP nomination. The one-week filing period for state and federal offices in Arkansas begins Feb. 24.
"I’ve been encouraged by a number of people to consider running for lieutenant governor and particularly in the last few weeks there’s been a lot of encouragement from around the state, not just central Arkansas. So I am considering it," Griffin told The Associated Press.
Griffin, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, said in October he wouldn’t seek re-election. At the time, Griffin, 45, said he’d rather focus on his family and raising his children than another congressional term. Griffin represents central Arkansas’ 2nd District.
Griffin said the lieutenant governor’s office would give him a chance to remain active in government while being close to his family.
"One of the reasons that people encouraged me to look at it is they felt like it is consistent with what I’ve pledged to do in terms of getting back to Arkansas and seeing my kids grow up," Griffin said. "I can achieve those personal goals at the same time I can continue in public service if I were to do this. That’s one of the things I find attractive about it."
State Reps. Charlie Collins and Andy Mayberry are both seeking the GOP nomination, while former Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter is the only Democrat running. The office is currently vacant, after Republican Mark Darr stepped down last week over ethics and campaign finance violations.
Griffin said his considering a bid didn’t amount to concerns about the current GOP field for the office.
"I consider them good friends and honorable guys," he said. "The question is whether it’s the right choice for me and my family at this time and can I bring something to the table?"
Mayberry said Griffin had called him Thursday morning about his possible candidacy. Mayberry said he would stay in the race if Griffin ran.
"I’m not running against a specific person, I’m running for the office of lieutenant governor," Mayberry said.
Collins said he learned Griffin was considering a bid Wednesday when he called the congressman asking for a campaign donation. Collins said the possibility of Griffin running wouldn’t affect his candidacy either.
"I’m in the race with both feet," Collins said.
State Democrats jumped at the possibility of a Griffin run, issuing a statement saying he represented "the dysfunctional politics of Washington" and linking him to the 16-day federal government shutdown last year.
The lieutenant governor’s job is a mostly ceremonial, part-time position whose duties include presiding over the state Senate and casting the rare tie-breaking vote in the 35-member chamber. The lieutenant governor is the next in line as acting governor if the governor is out of state or otherwise unable to serve. The lieutenant governor’s salary is about $42,000 a year.
Griffin was named to the House Ways and Means Committee in late 2012, 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.