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Two of a kind

Well, not exactly.

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WALLACE: Backed by Huckabee.
  • WALLACE: Backed by Huckabee.

Philosophically, Tim Griffin and Scott Wallace are in agreement. Conventional conservative Republicans, they're both anti-Obamacare, anti-estate tax, anti-cap-and- trade, pro-gun, pro-life, pro-tort reform. Both attend teabagger rallies. Neither is friends with Nancy Pelosi.

As candidates, however, they're very different. Griffin is the Goliath in the match. Seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in the Second District, he has the money, the backing of his party's national leadership, the government experience, the name recognition. (It's not necessarily favorable name recognition, but some say the spelling is all that matters.)

Wallace has the support of a few prominent Arkansas Republicans, including Mike Huckabee, Gay White and John Paul Hammerschmidt, and his own insistence that he's more of an Arkansan than Griffin, whom he calls a Washington insider. It seems hardly a full quiver, but he may not need many arrows. In a Republican primary in the Second Congressional District, there won't be many voters. Two years ago, the Republicans didn't even bother to field a candidate for this office. (But that was when the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Vic Snyder, was running for re-election. This year, Snyder has announced his retirement.)

Griffin, 41, was born in Charlotte, N.C., and reared in Magnolia. He graduated from Hendrix College and Tulane University Law School. He made his name, such as it is, as a political operative. He worked for the Republican National Committee digging up potentially harmful information about Democratic candidates, and then he was a legal advisor for the Bush-Cheney recount team in Florida in 2000, helping the U.S. Supreme Court install George W. Bush as president. He worked in the attorney general's office for a time, but was back at the RNC for the 2004 presidential election. He has been accused by Democrats and some journalists of “caging” Florida voters in that election — that is, finding ways to disqualify voters who were expected to go Democratic, such as black people. The mainstream media has made little of the allegations, and Griffin says he did nothing improper. He calls the accusations “a bunch of silliness.”

He fell in with Karl Rove, the famously ruthless political brain of the Bush administration. Rove and others worked successfully to oust Bud Cummins as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and put Griffin in his place. The appointment was hotly controversial, in part because it was made without Senate consultation. The controversy still raged when Griffin resigned from the job in 2007. He now practices law in Little Rock.

Wallace, 48, seems bland by comparison. The owner of Bruno's Little Italy, a legendary Little Rock restaurant, and other businesses, sees no disadvantage in that. “You have a choice between a Washington, D.C., insider and a hometown businessman who's created hundreds of jobs for Arkansans and been serving his community for a quarter of a century,” Wallace says. “He is the hand-picked establishment candidate, but we've done two different polls and we're leading in both.” Wallace also has a better chance to defeat the Democratic nominee in November, he says. “We don't have the D.C. baggage my opponent has. We won't have to deal with the issues the national Democratic Party is going to raise against him.”

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