Tolbert: Arkansas Republicans Finally Have A Bench

by Jason Tolbert ( 42 views 

Talk Business shook up the political world early Monday morning when we broke the news that Second District Congressman Tim Griffin would not seek a third term in office on 2014.  As I write in my weekly column for the Arkansas News Bureau, the announcement drastically changes the political landscape.

Griffin has further clarified that he will not run for any office in 2014, but he definitely is leaving the door open for a future campaign.

As I explain in my column, this is not the first time Griffin has stepped away from politics for a while and gone into the private sector.  My read is he will re-start his successful consulting business, raise his children during their formative years, and then be back when they get a bit older.

The good news for Republicans is that they have managed to develop a much deeper bench then they have ever had in the past.  A multitude of names have circulated as viable candidates for the now open Congressional race.  Here are some of the top ones…

State Rep. Ann Clemmer  – Clemmer is a term-limited state representative from Saline County.  In her six years in the legislature, she has earned a reputation as someone who sticks to her conservative principles while working across the aisle.  As a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she has focused on education issues and served as chair of the ALC – Higher Education Subcommittee and Vice Chair the House Education Committee.  She is currently a candidate for State Senate as a primary challenger for incumbent Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, but sources close to Clemmer have confirmed that she is strongly leaning toward jumping into the open Congressional race.

Banker French Hill – Hill is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for Congress, but he has never pulled the trigger.  He is certainly considering the race and would make a strong candidate.  He is from the Heights area of Little Rock, which could enable him to eat into some of the Democratic-rich votes in Pulaski County.  Currently, he is a candidate for the state house district that includes the Heights.  A well-respected banker makes him widely known within the central Arkansas business community, but it also could make it more difficult to go for a full-time grind of a Congressman instead of the part-time duties of a state legislator.  My read is that he jumps in if no other viable Republican does, but he might not have the stomach for a tough primary.

State Sen. Jonathan Dismang – An up-and-coming young Republican in central Arkansas, Dismang is certainly taking a look at the race and he tells me that he has not ruled it out at this point.  But much like Griffin, Dismang has children, and family concerns are no doubt a top priority in his decision to run.  Dismang is a rising star and will eventually be a candidate for higher office – the only question is: will this occur now or later?

Several other strong names have been mentioned, but are not likely to run.  Both Sen. Jason Rapert and Sen. David Sanders have said they plan to seek re-election for their current positions and term-limited State Rep. Andy Mayberry tells me he plans to continue his campaign for Lieutenant Governor.