Favorite

The Second District shakeup 

Just under four years ago, a Second District congressman facing difficult poll numbers because of his national party's travails suddenly announced his departure from the race, sending the Central Arkansas political world into a frenzy. On Monday morning, Tim Griffin did the same, surprising most everyone just as his predecessor, Democrat Vic Snyder, had done.

No matter his current polling problems in a toxic anti-incumbent environment, Tim Griffin probably would have been able to pull out a race for reelection in 2014. No matter the national GOP's problems and the more localized wounds inflicted on Griffin by the Mayflower oil spill, the slightly pro-GOP slant of the district created by the fast-growing suburban counties, the millions of dollars that would have flowed to the Little Rock media market to protect a GOP incumbent, and Griffin's excellent constituent relations (his office is well-known for its responsiveness in assisting district residents regardless of party affiliation, including yours truly) would likely have resulted in a narrow Griffin victory. But the Congressman was going to have to work very hard for a messy victory, making the private sector and more family time particularly appealing for him at this time.

So, where does that leave us in a Second District race without an incumbent? First, former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays, who announced for the post on Tuesday, may well be able to cement Democratic nomination quickly by jumping early. Either Bill Halter (who could have had the nomination by announcing just a few weeks ago) or former state Rep. Linda Tyler of Conway (who knows the majority of primary votes are in Pulaski County) would make the primary a big-dollar affair, but are likely to ultimately pass on it. A racially polarized mayoral election to replace Hays in North Little Rock and the persistent frustration at Arkansas's position as the sole Southern state still not to elect a person of color to Congress creates the possibility of a strong African-American candidate, producing the possibility of longer-term division in the party. We should know quickly whether Hays' path to the nomination will be easy or difficult.

Assuming he is the nominee, Hays will end up with a more solid Pulaski County vote than most recent Democratic candidates because of the support of loyalists north of the Arkansas River. No matter, to win a general election any Democratic nominee has to make some inroads into either of the two counties to either the immediate north or south of Pulaski to win a general election. Those numbers haven't changed with Griffin's departure.

Four years ago, Griffin rolled to easy victory in a GOP primary by uniting business conservatives with what was then a still-fledgling movement of Tea Party activists. The enhanced factionalism in the Republican party makes it less likely for a candidate to bridge that worldview divide in the party, although a candidate like west Pulaski County state Senator David Sanders or Saline County's state Representative Ann Clemmer might be in a position to pull it off and head to the general election with a united party.

One candidate most-mentioned in the immediately aftermath of the Griffin announcement represents a side of the factional divide. A favorite of business conservatives is Little Rock banker French Hill, who recently announced for a Heights-based state House race. While a strong GOP candidate for that state House district that skews Democratic and a good general election candidate for Congress, it likely will be difficult for a relatively moderate candidate like Hill to win in a congressional primary where conservative grassroots support matters much more than financial resources.

On the other hand, it seems inevitable that a candidate with strong ties to a coalition of Tea Party and social conservatives will step into a primary environment where mainline conservatives are suddenly outnumbered. Such a candidate — like David Meeks or Andy Mayberry, both state representatives — would have strength with activists. That said, candidates like those bring an inherent polarizing element to the race that could divide the party long-term and could create havoc in the suburban counties that will decide the election.

Griffin's big announcement creates sudden uncertainty about the shape of the race and the ultimate outcome. One thing is clear: The two big winners from the week's events are Mike Ross and Mark Pryor, who will each have their statewide candidacies bolstered by the renewed Democratic energy in the Second District. They are poised to get even more good news for their candidacies next week with the expected announcement of former Federal Emergency Management Agency head James Lee Witt that he will run for the Fourth District seat. The key missing piece for state Democrats at this point: A First District candidate with the same promise to enhance turnout in a vitally important part of the state for statewide Democrats.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Arkansas voters know what they want

    With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Resist Gorsuch

    Barring the bizarre, Judge Neil Gorsuch will become one of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court by the time the court reconvenes for its new term in October.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Can the U.S. Senate live up to its potential?

    I recently wandered back to "Master of the Senate," the third volume of Robert A. Caro's massive history of Lyndon Johnson. The book, on Johnson's years in the U.S. Senate, highlights the lingering power of the Senate to meet the challenges facing the country and to stand up to existential threats facing American democratic institutions.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Ban the box in Little Rock

    In the latest evidence of the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in shaping the American policy agenda, this past week has become "ban the box" week.
    • Nov 4, 2015

Most Shared

  • Architecture lecture: Sheila Kennedy on "soft" design

    Sheila Kennedy, a professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd., will give the June Freeman lecture tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center, part of the Architecture + Design Network series at the Arkansas Arts Center.
  • Petition calls for Jason Rapert Sewage Tanks in Conway

    A tribute is proposed for Conway's state senator Jason Rapert: naming the city's sewage sludge tanks for him. Petitioners see a similarity.
  • Health agency socked with big verdict, Sen. Hutchinson faulted for legal work

    A former mental health agency director has won a default judgment worth $358,000 over a claim for unpaid retirement pay and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is apparently to blame for failure to respond to pleadings in the case.
  • Religious right group calls for compromise on damage lawsuit amendment

    The Family Council, the religious right political lobby, has issued a statement urging its followers to oppose the so-called tort reform amendment to limit attorney fees and awards in damage lawsuits.
  • Constituents go Cotton pickin' at Springdale town hall

    Sen. Tom Cotton, cordial to a fault, appeared before a capacity crowd at the 2,200 seat Pat Walker Performing Arts Center at Springdale High tonight to a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. Other than polite applause when he introduced his mom and dad and a still moment as he led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — his night didn't get much better from there.

Latest in Jay Barth

  • Arkansas voters know what they want

    With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Resist Gorsuch

    Barring the bizarre, Judge Neil Gorsuch will become one of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court by the time the court reconvenes for its new term in October.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Can the U.S. Senate live up to its potential?

    I recently wandered back to "Master of the Senate," the third volume of Robert A. Caro's massive history of Lyndon Johnson. The book, on Johnson's years in the U.S. Senate, highlights the lingering power of the Senate to meet the challenges facing the country and to stand up to existential threats facing American democratic institutions.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas voters know what they want

    With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Future is female

    • When I try to be pithy I probably come across like an asshole, but there…

    • on February 25, 2017
  • Re: Hating the media

    • Yup, as Jefferson said "Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper"…

    • on February 25, 2017
  • Re: Trump and Russia

    • By the by - two days after Trump talked about Sweden having problems - there…

    • on February 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation