With the sudden news from Rep. Mike Ross that he will not seek re-election, potential Republican candidates will quickly emerge.  However, two Republicans have already been busy lining up support behind the scenes before Ross even announced his decision.

Republican Tom Cotton from Dardanelle confirms to the Tolbert Report this morning that he will seek the open seat and is already putting together his team.  Potential donors have confirmed that Cotton is lining up support and may already have over six figures in commitments.  In addition, Cotton has been seen meeting recently with Second District Congressman Tim Griffin who could lend support to Cotton’s campaign.

Cotton was one of the many names considering a run for Senate in 2010 against former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, but ultimately decided against it. Cotton currently works for international consulting firm, McKinsey and Company. A veteran, he also serves in the U.S. Army Reserves. Cotton lives in Yell County, which was part of the Second Congressional District represented by Congressman Griffin. It was moved to the Fourth Congressional Disctrict in the last redistricting process.

In addition, Beth Anne Rankin of Magnolia, former candidate and general election opponent of Mike Ross, has been exploring another run as well.  Rankin is a former Miss Arkansas and worked in former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s administration.  She recently appeared on his Fox News program "Huckabee" cutting her red hair for "Locks of Love" – something she does every few years.  Rankin recieved 40 percent of the vote in 2010 with Ross pulling in 57 percent.  (UPDATE – Statement from Rankin below.)

In addition, sources close to State Rep. Lane Jean of Magnolia confirm that he is "strongly considering" getting into the race as well.  Jean was elected to his first term in the Arkansas House in 2010.

Other potential Republicans names mentioned are: State Rep. Matthew Shepherd, former Congressional candidate Glenn Gallas, and Will Rockfeller – the son of the late Lt. Gov. Win Rockfeller.

Several Democrats names have started to float.  Roby Brock has the list here. One of the strongest names on the list – Rep. Bruce Maloch (D-Magnolia) tells me that he is committed to running for state sentate and will not seek the open Congressional seat.

“I have been planning for some time to run for State Senate in 2012 when Senator Malone’s term ends. While I was surprised at Congressman Ross’ announcement earlier today, I remain committed to running for State Senate and believe that is where I can best serve my state at this time. I am flattered to be considered as a potential candidate and believe there will be strong candidates and a spirited campaign to replace Congressman Ross. Congressman Ross is one of the hardest working and dedicated public servants I know. I want to publicly thank him for his service to the 4th Congressional district and to our state," said Maloch.

UPDATE – Statement from Beth Anne Rankin on announcement from Rep. Ross…

"I have known Congressman Ross for over twenty years and would like to thank him for his distinguished years of service and dedication to the Fourth District of Arkansas.

As the Republican nominee, It was a tremendous experience to participate in the campaign process with Congressman Ross in 2010. I enjoyed the energetic exchange of ideas and opinions, and I truly loved the opportunity to travel the Fourth District and meet thousands of citizens throughout the process.

I have long been in prayerful consideration regarding my own political future, and I will continue to talk to my friends, supporters and citizens across the Fourth District. The issues facing our nation which compelled me to run for Congress in 2010 are still issues today, including the financial future of our country and the need for strong, conservative leadership in DC.

I will make an announcement in the near future regarding my decision, but today is the day to thank Congressman Ross for his service to the Fourth District of Arkansas."


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