A traditional Democratic stronghold is on the line in Arkansas’ 2nd U.S. House District. But it’s a district Democrats will have a hard time keeping. The open seat is a likely GOP gain with 13-year veteran Vic Snyder retiring. The Democrats are turning to state politician Joyce Elliott to hold Little Rock. She’s facing Republican Tim Griffin this election season, in a year and a district that is no longer as strongly pro-Democrat.
Candidates for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District (two-year term)
(The 2nd District includes Van Buren, White, Faulkner, Conway, Yell, Perry, Pulaski and Saline counties. Little Rock, North Little Rock, Clinton, Hollis and Jacksonville are all within the 2nd District. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Joyce Elliott
Political experience: Elliott served as an Arkansas state representative from 2000 to 2006 and was elected to the Arkansas state senate in 2008, where she was selected to be majority leader. She was chair of the Education Committee.
Professional experience: Elliott was a high school teacher for 31 years. She began working for the College Board after that, serving as the Director of Government Relations for the southwest region until February 2010.
Key issues: It’s only natural that education would be Elliott’s strong suit, and she’s made this one of her three plans on listed in the issues section of her website, along with the economy and health care. Her education plans range from increased funding for pre-kindergarten to making college more affordable and accessible.
Endorsements: Elliott is backed by the Little Rock Firefighters Association, Circle of Friends for American Veterans, the Arkansas Times and former primary opponent David Boling.
Chances of maintaining her seat: Elliot certainly has an uphill battle ahead of her. While she is an experienced legislator, the 2nd District isn’t necessarily a Democratic stronghold any more with Snyder having stepped aside. Even if one only looks at the money race, she’s losing. According to OpenSecrets.org, Griffin has $315,662 to Elliot’s $106,333 on hand in late August, and he’s raised double her campaign funds during his campaign.
Candidate: Tim Griffin
Political experience: Griffin was a former aide to GOP advisor Karl Rove, as special assistant to the president and deputy director in the Office of Political Affairs at the White House. He went on to become U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Arkansas from 2006 to 2007, a placement that coincided with the 2006 United States attorney firings that became a political story during that time.
Professional experience: Griffin has served in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corp major. He’s currently Command Judge Advocate for the Southeast Medical Area Readiness Support Group. He’s also the founder of Griffin Law Firm, PLLC and Griffin Public Affairs, LLC (GPA), and is licensed to practice in Arkansas and Louisiana.
Key issues: Alongside red-meat traditional values issues such as gun rights, a pro-life stance and supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, Griffin is spotlighting his decisive stance on congressional reform, including pay and raise suspensions, a change in pension, a 72-hour amendment rule, self-imposed term limits and opposing earmark spending.
Endorsements: Griffin has received endorsements from several former local politicians and candidates, including 2nd District Rep. Ed Bethune, Democratic Senate candidate D.C. Morrison and congressional candidate Scott Wallace.
Chances of defeating Joyce Elliott: He’s beating her in the polls, in numbers and in funding. An Aug. 17 poll by Talk Business shows Griffin leading Elliott by 17 points. Demographically, the Cook Partisan Index shows the district is R+5. Apart from Snyder’s legacy, there’s not a lot showing Elliott has a great deal of hope, unless the Talk Business poll proves to be an outlier poll.
Key Differences between Tim Griffin and Joyce Elliott
Economy: Griffin has made it clear he was opposed to corporate bailouts, and that he wants to both cut taxes and control spending in part by reforming (not privatizing) Social Security and Medicare. Elliott’s solutions include increasing exports, improving high school graduation rates and promoting alternative energies to create new “green” jobs.
Education: Elliott has a fairly detailed plan in this arena, indicating how she’d like to close the achievement gap and raise test scores. She’d like to end subsidies to financial institutions that make student loans to both reduce the deficit and make college more affordable. Griffin is for home-schooling, school of choice and vouchers for magnet and charter schools.
Health care: Griffin is opposed to the current health care reform bill, believing free-market solutions are the best answer, allowing patients and doctors to make health care decisions. He notes that people with pre-existing conditions should have access to health insurance, but is concerned that the current reforms have moved the U.S. more toward a European-style solution to health care. Elliott is clear she will defend the current reforms, citing that a campaign of misinformation has led people to oppose it. She wants to see more funding to encourage smoking cessation, battle obesity and raise awareness regarding organ donation.
Arkansas’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Arkansas 2nd District is made up of the center of the state in a roughly sideways cross shape, with Little Rock and its suburbs within the boundaries. All of Van Buren, White, Faulkner, Conway, Yell, Perry, Pulaski and Saline counties make up the district.
2008 results: Rep. Vic Snyder ran unopposed.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 72.4 percent of the district is white, 20.6 percent black, 3.9 percent Hispanic and 1.3 percent Asian.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Arkansas 2nd District a rating of R+5, giving the Republican candidate a moderate advantage with voters.