story by Ryan Saylor
Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, gave no indication Saturday (Feb. 8) when he spoke to The City Wire that he was looking to exit the race for lieutenant governor, but that is exactly what he did Thursday (Feb. 13) following the announcement of U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, that he would run for the office.
Instead of seeking the open seat, which was vacated when Lt. Gov. Mark Darr resigned from the office Feb. 1 following an ethics scandal, Collins said he would seek re-election to his Fayetteville House seat.
The two-term representative said there was simply no way he could defeat Griffin, who announced months ago that he would retire from Congress in order to spend more time with his family in Arkansas.
"Congressman Griffin, a sitting congressman, has tremendous name recognition and access to resources," Collins said in a phone interview. "It makes sitting Congressman Tim Griffin a crystal clear favorite to win the Republican primary and also the general election, which is good for Republicans. Tim is smart, tenacious, and will make an excellent lieutenant governor for Arkansas."
It is a reversal from Saturday, when he was looking forward to the lieutenant governor's race, which would give him a "a statewide platform, (where) I can help build and champion and get more support for this message of economic freedom (and) making our state more competitive with the states around us."
As for what will happen to any of the money already contributed to Collins' lieutenant governor bid, he said he would like to use the funds for his House re-election effort, but would leave that up to donors.
"I'm going to talk to those people who contributed to my campaign and if they agree, I'll use (the funds) in my state representative race. If they want a refund, I will refund on a pro-rated basis on what I've spent so far. It will be up to the person who donated (what I do with the money)."
The shakeup in the lieutenant governor's race comes a day after Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, announced her switch from the race for governor to the race for lieutenant governor. In addition to Hobbs and Griffin, Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, is seeking the GOP nomination. Democrat John Burkhalter is currently his party's only candidate.