Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Jesse Gibson spar in Attorney General debate

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,500 views 

The two candidates for Arkansas Attorney General agreed on at least one thing during a debate Wednesday (Oct. 19) on Arkansas PBS. Republican Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., and his Democratic opponent Jesse Gibson both think the slew of ads doled by the Arkansas Attorney General’s office this year cost too much money.

The ads are partisan and political, Gibson said. If he’s elected he said he will end the partisanship that he thinks has plagued that office for years, and it would start by not spending tax dollars on those ads.

“I will always be a good steward of the public’s money,” he said.

If elected, Griffin said he would assess what methods have worked in the office and what has not. He planned to work with the legislature to make sure lawmakers know the legalities of what they are trying to pass, and he said the ads were “a waste of money.”

“I’ve had to work with Democrats and Republicans … I’ve had to put the partisan label aside,” Griffin said.

One thing on which the two disagreed is the proposed recreational marijuana amendment, Issue 4, that is on the ballot. Griffin said he opposes the measure. He said there are less than 10 people in the state’s prison system for marijuana possession. He said the state wants to attract high technology jobs or auto industry sector jobs and those workers will have to pass drug tests.

Gibson disagreed. He noted that 30 states already have some form of legal marijuana and inevitably all will. Recreational marijuana will be a boon for state coffers and private business. It will free up resources to allow law enforcement to pour more resources into solving more violent crimes.

Griffin has been openly critical of the prison parole system. Many criminals only serve a fraction of their sentences, and he supports the federal system in which criminals don’t have a parole option.

Gibson agreed that crime has been on the rise in recent years, and he blamed Griffin and the Republican Party. He noted the party has controlled all levers of state government for the last eight years and the problem has only been getting worse.

Both candidates agreed there should be more exemptions in the state law that virtually eliminates abortions in the state. The trigger law that went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned is archaic, and at a minimum, exceptions should be made for those who are victims of rape or incest or the health of the mother is at risk, Gibson said.

Griffin said he supports exceptions for rape and incest victims. He said he thinks legislators will take up the issue during the next session.

When asked where he stood on the issue of the state AG’s office filing more than 100 pieces of litigation against President Joe Biden’s administration, Gibson said it’s a waste of taxpayer resources.

“It’s political grandstanding. It’s unnecessary,” he said.

Griffin agreed to an extent. He said some of the litigation shouldn’t have been filed, and if elected he will take his own approach.

“I’m not going to willy-nilly file lawsuits. If it’s something that needs to be litigated, then litigate it,” he said.

The two candidates agreed that anyone who committed crimes during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The two differed, however, on the recent attempt by the Biden administration to eliminate student loan forgiveness. Griffin noted that he had to pay more than $100,000 in student loans himself. He believes that a lawsuit to stop the forgiveness will be successful, and it sends the wrong message to those who borrow money.

Gibson disagreed and said the forgiveness will positively impact many students and families. The impacts will be felt by those in a broad range of careers and vocations.

Gibson and Griffin disagreed on the state’s transgender law that doesn’t allow for underage residents to undergo sex change therapies. The law is being challenged in federal court.

Griffin said it’s reasonable to not allow someone who is underage to undergo a life altering procedure. Gibson said the issue has become too politicized and thinks once the facts and evidence is weighed, the law will be hard to uphold.