VIC SNYDER: Today in NLR. (Brian Chilson photo)
U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder of Little Rock distributed an e-mail shortly after 4 p.m. Friday saying that he is not running for re-election this year. He cited family demands. His family grew to four children a year ago with the addition of triplets. His statement is on the jump.
Republicans were clearly overjoyed at the news, though generally restricted official statements to understanding comments about Snyder's family. Democrats, too, treated the announcement as a surprise and an occasion for appreciation of Snyder. But if rumors are any indication, there's a hungry group of Democratic politicos ready to pick up the fight.
Snyder participated at a groundbreaking in North Little Rock for federal stimulus money for a traffic circle and neighborhood revitalization earlier in the afternoon. His staff said he'd be talking to no one further today about his decision. He intentionally held the retirement announcement until after the event so it would not arise there.
Our picture above was taken at that event. In retrospect, his remarks might have been telling. Says Leslie Peacock, who was there:
He opened his remarks with a story about his babies -- heard one crying in the night and went into nursery, left lights off, picked up baby and patted him and then realized he was holding him upside down.
Snyder, 62, was elected to Congress in 1996 after six years in the legislature and has survived a number of strong Republican challenges over the years, though he drew no GOP opponent in 2008. Three Republicans, Scott Wallace, David Meeks and Tim Griffin, have announced this year. A liberal blog's poll announced late last night showed Griffin with a 17-point lead over Snyder.
Snyder, a family physician who also has a law degree, had a voting record generally viewed as liberal, though he wasn't reliably in that camp. He's opposed single-payer health insurance for years, for example, a stance that has had liberals pushing him this year for a stronger position on the health bill. He was a lonely vote against the war in Iraq, however, and has been a champion for rights of sexual minorities, not a popular position with many Arkansans.
The news caught Republicans flat-footed. They offered careful, brief statements. All were able to suppress public displays of high-fives or loud cackles.
Said Griffin: "I respect Rep. Snyder’s decision not to seek re-election. I thank him for his many years of service to the nation both in uniform and in Washington. I look forward to continuing a vigorous grassroots campaign on common sense conservative principles, including private-sector job creation, reducing the national debt and market-based health care reform."
Griffin won't lack for money. He said on the Dave Elswick show on KARN today that financier Warren Stephens will be his finance chair. Said Stephens in a prepared statement: "He understands that the private-sector is the only source of sustainable job creation, and that is why I wholeheartedly endorse him to be our next congressman.”
Should he win the nomination, Griffin won't lack for heavy Democratic opposition. His role as a political operator for Karl Rove in the Bush White House and allegations that he worked on schemes to suppress the black vote in Florida are sure to emerge as issues.
Scott Wallace's campaign consultant, former state legislator Ted Thomas, said, "Vic ws always an honorable public servant, but with all those kids and all that travel it's not easy. If you look at the polls there's not a good mood for Democrats right now, so I wouldn't say I was surprised."
David Meeks said: "I wish Rep. Snyder well in his future endeavors. I feel that he knew it was going to be a tough race, knew that he was potentially out of touch with the people in his district and saw the other problems the Democrats were having and decided to bow out of the race."
The big question is whether all Democrats were surprised and whether the party will be left in the lurch by Snyder's decision. He always delayed fund-raising until 90 days before the primary election, so his lack of activity until now hadn't been a concern. But with filing at the first of April, time is short for a candidate to gear up a campaign.
One exception is Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who has a campaign organization in place for re-election. He's been widely mentioned as a potential opponent for Sen. Blanche Lincoln, but rumor was circulating in Washington yesterday that the Second District congressional seat might be a target for Halter, particularly in 2012 if Snyder were to be defeated this year.
Asked for a comment about whether this would change his plans, Halter avoided the question. He issued a statement praising Snyder and wishing him and his family the best. He said his wife, Shanti, "joins me in wishing Vic and Betsy the very best and we are especially delighted that Vic will soon have more family time with his four young boys." A spokesman for Halter said this was "the congressman's day," not a day to talk about others political plans. Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and Rep. Mike Ross also issued statements praising Snyder.
In the current climate, a strong Democratic candidate might be state Sen. Bob Johnson of Bigelow, a conservative with the perceived ability to raise money. He'd already said he was thinking about a challenge of Lincoln and he's made his interest in congressional service known in years past. But here's a wrinkle: He's a protege of former U.S. Rep. Ray Thornton, whose mother was a member of the wealthy Stephens family, which counts a prominent member on Tim Griffin's team.
Another potential entrant in the race is House Speaker Robbie Wills of Conway, who attained a high legislative profile during the lottery implementation process. Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock said, "I am very, very seriously considering running. I want to take a bit of time and be thoughtful before I declare absolutely."
Other instant names in the mentioned pot: Sen. Shane Broadway, a term-limited state senator; Paul Suskie, now on the state Public Service Commission, and Preston Scroggin, the Faulkner County judge. Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola was defeated in a primary race for the job in Snyder's first election and is believed to still be interested in Congress.
Snyder's departure might even spur more interest among Republicans. For example, we reached one ambitious former Republican legislator at a duck camp, Dean Elliott of Maumelle. He responded to a question about his potential interest: "I just heard about it. It's too early to tell yet."
Snyder's statement about an "appropriate balance" between political service and family life calls to mind a tempest stirred in Little Rock recently when a Republican doctor's wife confronted Snyder in Graffiti's restaurant during dinner with his wife to criticize his health care vote and promise he'd be defeated. She braggged about the confrontation in a widely circulated e-mail.
The episode upset Snyder's wife Betsy Singleton, a Methodist minister, and provoked a riot of Internet comments and op-ed pieces. Singleton, who had a difficult pregnancy with her triplets, told the woman, Janet Davis, that talking with Snyder at work was more appropriate than interrupting a private dinner. That is a cost of politics in Arkansas, however. On home soil, we've always valued our closeness to our politicians, though it's true that most contact is at least more polite than what Snyder experienced that night. But this has been an ugly year. Snyder has also experienced strong words from Tea Party members at meetings on health legislation.
Friends think Snyder struggled over the decision and only reached it recently, though not because of any polling. He believed Griffin, should he win the nomination, would have been the most flawed of Republican candidates he's had to face.
Friends, too, aren't ready to believe that Snyder's decision leaves the Democratic Party in a difficult spot. Though the primary is only four months away, the meat of the general campaign season is much farther off and a number of younger Democrats are believed to be interested.
Said Party executive director Mariah Hattah in response to a question of whether Snyder's decision left the party in the lurch: "Of course not, there are plenty of candidates with the ability and know-how to form an effective organization and win. I have absolutely no doubt the Democratic Party will field a strong candidate to take on the eventual GOP nominee in November."
Passengers on a flight to Little Rock Thursday with Snyder said he was shown a firedoglake.com poll that showed him trailing Griffin by 17 points. They said he showed no reaction. Friends believe his decision was made before the poll was released late last night.
VIC SNYDER NEWS RELEASE
Washington D.C. - U.S. Representative Vic Snyder (AR-02) issued the following statement today:
“2010 will be a robust election year during which great forces collide to set the direction for our country for another two years. Over the last several weeks Betsy and I have had discussions with family and friends including other members of Congress (Rep. David Price, Rep. Susan Davis, and our own Sen. Mark Pryor) regarding the appropriate balance between family and Congressional service when a family has very young children. I have concluded that these election-year forces are no match for the persuasive and powerful attraction of our three one-year old boys under the leadership of their three-year old brother, and I have decided not to run for re-election. It is the greatest professional honor of my life to represent Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives, and I am so grateful to the people of Arkansas to have had this wonderful opportunity. That honor will now pass to someone else at the conclusion of this term.”
“This decision has not been an easy one. Two weeks ago my campaign manager came on board, but that first morning I advised him to do nothing to begin the campaign because of my doubts regarding running. The onset of the new year, the time I always begin organizing my campaigns, did nothing to remove these doubts.”
“I have put very little thought into what the work side of my life will look like at the end of this term, although it is clear from observing how much our four little boys eat that I will be working for a long, long time.”
STATEMENT, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR DOYLE WEBB
“We thank Congressman Snyder for his many years of public service and wish him and his family well. The Republican Party of Arkansas anticipates the people of the 2nd district will elect a new representative who will reflect their conservative views and values by voting for private sector job creation, reducing taxes, and preserving personal freedoms. Most importantly the people of Arkansas deserve a representative who is committed to defeating such policies as the proposed Obama-Reid-Pelosi healthcare scheme and working against expanding the role of federal government and thereby reducing the national deficit.”