AP Source: Tom Cotton Will Run for Mark Pryor's U.S. Senate Seat

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013 10:15 am  

Tom Cotton, right, has scheduled an event Tuesday with supporters in his hometown of Dardanelle. A person who has spoken with Cotton said the congressman intends to enter the U.S. Senate race against Mark Pryor, who faces re-election next year.

"Instead of putting Arkansas first, he has put his own political career ahead of the people of Arkansas and sided with Washington insiders and special interests," Pryor's campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said in a statement. "When the people of our state review Tom Cotton's record, they won't like what they see."

Groups on the right and left have already been airing ads throughout the state targeting Pryor. A gun control group founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has aired spots criticizing the Democratic lawmaker for voting against expanded background checks. Pryor used his first TV spot to defend his vote against the criticism.

Since taking office in January, Cotton has enjoyed a high profile with multiple appearances on national programs such as Meet the Press. Cotton in July wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal opposing Senate immigration legislation.

He's also been targeted by Democrats who viewed him as a likely challenger to Pryor. Two Democratic political action committees, Patriot Majority USA and Senate Majority PAC, launched a $270,000 television ad buy in June attacking Cotton for allegedly seeking the national spotlight at the expense of his district.

State Democrats continued that criticism of Cotton on Wednesday.

"Today's announcement proves that Tom Cotton's number one priority in his first few months as a congressman has been to further his own political ambition over the needs of his constituents," spokeswoman Candace Martin said in a statement released by the party.

Cotton has faced criticism from Democrats for initially opposing the farm bill over objections to the food stamp program. Cotton later voted for a version of the farm bill that did not include funding for food stamps.

Cotton's also come under fire for a recent proposal that would have extended sanctions on Iranian human rights violators to their families — an idea that has been criticized as eliminating due process. Cotton, who withdrew the proposal, has defended the idea and said it would only apply to sanctions on Iranians, not any American citizens.

Cotton's appeal to conservative activists stems from his resume as a Harvard-educated veteran who's known for his rhetorical flourishes.

When he joined with House Republicans to vote for the federal health overhaul's repeal, he compared the unsuccessful effort to defeat the law to an ancient Roman senator's ongoing call to destroy Carthage. When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died in March, Cotton responded with "Sic semper tyrannis," or Latin for "thus always to tyrants." John Wilkes Booth uttered the same after assassinating President Lincoln.

Cotton's candidacy will likely have a domino effect on other races in Arkansas. House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman plans to seek the Republican nomination for Cotton's seat and will formally launch his campaign in August, a person who had spoken to the lawmaker told the AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Cotton had not yet formally launched his Senate campaign.

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr has said he'd likely run for Cotton's seat if the congressman ran for Senate. Janis Percefull, a community college teacher, is the only Democrat running for the 4th District seat.

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