By John Lyon

Arkansas News Bureau

Democrat Patrick Henry Hays of North Little Rock declared his candidacy Tuesday for the 2nd District congressional seat.

The declaration by the former state legislator who also served 24 years as North Little Rock mayor comes just a day after incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, announced he would not seek re-election to a third term. Hays said he had decided to run before Griffin’s announcement and said his decision was motivated largely by the recent government shutdown.

"Sixteen days in October was a travesty. You look around and you try to find what was good about that and there wasn’t anything," said Hays, who went public with criticism of Griffin during the shutdown.

Hays made his announcement at a senior citizens center bearing his name, one of many projects he shepherded in the city during more than two decades as mayor.

"What we do at city hall, we solve problems," he said. "We’re going to carry problem-solving ideas, we going to carry local government solutions and we’re going to carry a brighter future for the U.S. Congress and the Second District (to Washington, D.C.), and that’s why we’re declaring that we’re a candidate and we’re going to take these issues forward."

The National Republican Congressional Committee began criticizing Hays hours before his announcement.

In a statement Tuesday morning, the NRCC said "Patrick Hays in Washington means another vote for President Obama’s failed liberal policies. Arkansas families are looking for someone to stop President Obama from intruding on their way of life, but with Hays in Congress he is sure to back Obama every step of the way."

Hays is the first candidate of either party to announce for the race to represent Central Arkansas in the U.S. House. A number of possible contenders expressed interest in the seat Monday after Griffin said he would not run.

Among them were Republicans including state Sens. Jason Rapert of Conway and Jonathan Dismang of Beebe, along with Little Rock banker French Hill. On the Democratic side, former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, former state Rep. Linda Tyler of Conway and Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, expressed interest.