LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Republicans hoped to flip another of the state's congressional seats as a political newcomer faced a veteran legislator in a U.S. House race in southern Arkansas.
Republican Tom Cotton of Dardanelle enjoyed a huge funding advantage over state Sen. Gene Jeffress, a Democrat from Louann, as both hoped to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Mike Ross.
Green Party nominee Joshua Drake and Libertarian nominee Bobby Tullis also are in the race.
Cotton said he would work to repeal the nation's new health care system despite the U.S. Supreme Court upholding it last summer. Jeffress said that while he wasn't sure how he would have voted on the health care plan had he been in Congress, he opposes changing the law and praised provisions that extend benefits for children and keep coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
After raising nearly $2 million, Cotton peppered television airwaves with advertising soon after winning his party's nomination in the spring — even showing one commercial during a Democratic debate leading up to the primary runoff. Jeffress, as he did during the primary, relied on old-fashioned political networking and word-of-mouth and complained that one shouldn't have to spend millions of dollars to win a congressional seat. His fundraising total was less than $84,000 at the middle of last month.
The 4th District has traditionally been a southern Arkansas seat, but was modified after the 2010 census to include portions of Republican-heavy northwestern Arkansas. Cotton's hometown is in the Arkansas River Valley, leading Jeffress to label him an "outsider" to the core of the district.
Cotton called Jeffress a "big government liberal."
Ross announced last year he would not seek re-election and later said he would take a job in the private sector. He said that running in the 33-county district was similar to running a statewide campaign and that the demands of the political season played a role in his decision to step down.
Jeffress drew fire when he said Cotton relied too much on his status as a veteran for support. Cotton said Jeffress confused the race with a "resume contest" and that he has genuine ideas for improving the district.