John Timothy (Tim) Griffin (1968–)
John Timothy (Tim) Griffin has been a major figure in Arkansas Republican politics in the first decades of the twenty-first century, serving in a wide variety of positions, both elected and appointed. Starting in 2010, he served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Griffin was elected lieutenant governor in 2014 and served the maximum (due to term limits) two terms in that office before being elected state attorney general in 2022.
Tim Griffin was born on August 21, 1968, in Charlotte, North Carolina, the youngest child of a preacher and a teacher. The family moved back to their hometown of Magnolia (Columbia County) when Griffin was in sixth grade. After graduating from Magnolia High School, he went to Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County), where he majored in economics, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1990. He then spent a year at Oxford University before returning to the United States and enrolling at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. He received his law degree from Tulane in 1994. Shortly after graduating from law school, in 1996, he began serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, an ongoing commitment.
From September 1995 to January 1997, Griffin assisted Special Prosecutor David Barrett in the investigation of former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros. For two years after that, he served as Senior Investigative Counsel for the House Committee on Government Reform. In September 1999, Griffin became Deputy Research Director for the Republican National Committee, and he later served as a legal advisor for the “Bush-Cheney 2000 Florida Recount Team.” He joined the George W. Bush administration, serving as special assistant to Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff from 2001 into 2002, before returning to the Republican National Committee (RNC), where he served as research director and deputy communications director from 2002 to 2005.
In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. He achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 2018, he received his master’s degree in strategic studies from the United States Army War College.
Joining the staff of Bush confidant Karl Rove, Griffin served as special assistant to the president and deputy director of political affairs. He also did a stint as senior legislative advisor to the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness at the Pentagon. From 2006 to 2007, Griffin served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
At this time, his work with the RNC led to his involvement in a covert project of “voter caging,” a program aimed at discovering potentially fraudulent voters. Not only did it offer the appearance of a political dirty trick, but as it also appeared to disproportionately target non-white voters—a discriminatory practice that if real, would have been illegal—the effort was a public relations nightmare. The scheme, which was publicly revealed during Griffin’s U.S. attorney confirmation hearing, was not deemed substantive enough to disqualify him, however. At the same time, his appointment itself came under scrutiny when it was seen as part of an awkward effort by the administration to purge sitting U.S. Attorneys, while seeking to replace them with ones loyal to Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.
Despite all of this, in 2010, Griffin proved to be a strong candidate when he made his first run for office, seeking election to the U.S. House from the Second District, a seat vacated when long-time Democratic incumbent Vic Snyder decided to step down. Garnering just under fifty-eight percent of the vote, Griffin brought the seat into the Republican column, a victory attributable at least in part to the conservative Tea Party movement that helped sweep the Republicans back into a majority in the House.
Griffin served two terms representing the Second District. In his second term, he was on the House Ways and Means Committee, after having served on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House Committee on Ethics, and the House Committee on the Judiciary as a freshman. Too, he served as an assistant whip for the majority during his first term and was promoted to deputy whip for the majority in his second. Over the course of his House career, Griffin was a strong advocate for tax and entitlement reductions and for reducing the national debt.
Despite having put himself on a track to serve in the party leadership, as he looked at 2014, Griffin decided to stay in Arkansas with his family, which included wife Elizabeth, two daughters, and a son. That year, instead of another run for Congress, he ran for, and won, the office of lieutenant governor as part of a Republican statewide sweep. He was reelected to a second four-year term in 2018. Throughout his time as lieutenant governor, he focused on economic development. He has also been a vocal proponent of charter schools. In 2019, he served as chairman of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association (RLGA).
Griffin has been active in the community, serving at various times on the boards of Our House, an organization serving the working homeless; the Florence Crittenton Home, an emergency shelter and residential care facility; and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas.
In August 2019, unable to seek another term as lieutenant governor due to term limits, Griffin announced his candidacy for governor, becoming the first to enter the race. However, in February 2021, with both Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and former Donald Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders having also entered the race, Griffin announced that, despite endorsements by two of the state’s four congressmen, he would instead seek the office of state attorney general. He was elected with more than 67 percent of the vote.
For additional information:
Brock, Roby. “Lt. Gov. Griffin Explains Switch to AG Race, Plans to Endorse Governor Candidate.” KUAR, February 14, 2021. https://www.ualrpublicradio.org/post/lt-gov-griffin-explains-switch-ag-race-plans-endorse-governor-candidate (accessed March 3, 2022).
“Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin.” Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas. https://ltgovernor.arkansas.gov//about-the-office/about-tim (accessed March 3, 2022).
“Tim Griffin.” Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/Tim_Griffin (accessed March 3, 2022).
William H. Pruden III
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