Left and Right Already Swinging at Mark Pryor

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013 7:34 am  

Mark Pryor's re-election race is 17 months away, but the Democratic incumbent seen as perhaps the most vulnerable in 2014 is already taking hits from the right and the left. (Photo by Trent Ogle)

The conservative Club for Growth, which backed Cotton last year, has aired ads linking Pryor to Obama.

At the same time, Pryor has absorbed criticism from the left after voting against expanded background checks for firearms purchases.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Bloomberg group, is airing television and radio ads criticizing Pryor for the vote. The ad invokes the shooting death of Bill Gwatney, the state Democratic Party chairman who was killed in his office in 2008. Bloomberg has also urged New York donors to not contribute to Pryor or the other Democratic senators who voted against the background checks measure in April.

"When my dear innocent friend was shot to death, I didn't blame guns. I blamed a system that makes it so terribly easy for criminals or the dangerous mentally ill to buy guns," Angela Bradford-Barnes, who worked with Gwatney, says in the ad. "That's why I was so disappointed when Mark Pryor voted against comprehensive background checks. On that vote, he let us down."

Robert McLarty, a Democratic consultant in Little Rock who's not affiliated with Pryor's campaign, said the senator's biggest challenge right now is that he doesn't have an announced opponent while he's fending off attacks from both sides.

"He's not able to direct a compare and contrast style campaign," McLarty said. "He's not able to take a candidate on the other side and say this is how we differ."

But McLarty and others say Pryor is in a better position than Lincoln was in 2010.

She survived a bruising Democratic primary with the help of former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned for her. But she lost handily in the fall of 2010. Pryor has higher approval figures than Lincoln did and appears unlikely at this point to draw a serious primary challenger next spring.

Clinton headlined a March fundraiser to kick off Pryor's re-election bid, helping him raise more than $1 million in a night. Pryor reported having more than $3.4 million in the bank for the 2014 race.

"The reason this is a race of national significance is because it's about whether a senator who cares about his own people more than ideological purity can be financed, elected, lifted by the people he has served in the face of all these crazy currents that are taking America and tearing it to shreds," Clinton said at the event.

Pryor is trying to find middle ground on issues such as gun control, where he contends his vote represents a constituency that values hunting and gun rights. He's also argued that a competing measure he supported that was endorsed by the National Rifle Association would have done more to address gun violence.

The NRA has also stepped in to help Pryor, with a radio ad airing in the state thanking the lawmaker for his vote.



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