Ross Is The Last, Best Hope For Democrats

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 126 views 

With the news from Talk Business on Tuesday that former Congressman Mike Ross is leaving his nice, high-paying job with Southwest Power Pool for an “opportunity in public service,”  I think it is safe to assume that the chance of him running for governor is around 99.44%.  I wrote in my weekly column for Stephen Media today that Ross might be the last best hope for Arkansas Democrats to push back against the rising tide of Republicans in Arkansas.  I explain that Sen. Pryor is not the guy as he voted with Obama 95 percent of the time and Halter is perceived – rightly or wrongly – as being too far to the left. But on Ross, I write…

So, if Ross chooses to run, the Democratic primary likely will pit the more liberal wing of the party rallying behind Halter against the traditional party establishment, which will get behind Ross. The winner also could have a down-ballot impact — one way or the other.

State Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, has been mentioned as a potential congressional candidate in South Arkansas if Rep. Tom Cotton, a conservative Republican first-termer, leaves to run against Pryor. Maloch, in the mold of Ross, could benefit if Ross is on the November ballot as the gubernatorial nominee.

Ross also could give a boost to Democrats struggling to retake the state Legislature after losing the majority to Republicans in 2012, largely through gains in rural areas where Democrats traditionally had done well in the past and where Ross likely would play well for them.

Whether Ross is up to the challenge may be key to whether Arkansas becomes a permanent red state or whether Democrats can push back against the red tide for at least a couple more years.

The down the ballot impact is key for the state legislature where the Republican majority is a razor-thin 51 with several close districts open in the next cycle due to term limits.  I have to think that a rural Democratic state legislative candidate – particularly in south Arkansas – will be a lot more excited about Ross campaigning with him than Halter.

The impact on a Fourth District Congressional primary could also be interesting.  If Cong. Cotton runs for the Senate against Sen. Pryor – as appears likely – then I would expect a primary for this open seat on both sides of the aisle.  This would force south Arkansas voters to choose which primary to vote in.  There is little doubt that a heated governor’s race between Halter and Ross with a relatively tame Republican primary will draw many to request a Democratic ballot in May.

I will also add that Republicans I speak to have indicated they expect Ross to be much tougher to beat than Halter or even McDaniel would have been.  The opposition research is already arriving on Ross, much of which is focusing on his vote in the summer of 2009 to move ObamaCare out of committee, which he explains in the video below when I had the chance to ask him about this vote.