A Democratic challenger to Arkansas incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton may have emerged.
Talk Business & Politics has confirmed that 2018 Third District Democratic Congressional candidate Joshua Mahony of Fayetteville has had multiple conversations in-state and with national groups about a bid to run against Cotton in 2020. Mahony says he is contemplating a run.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I can confirm that I am interested in the race. I’ll have more to say about it early next month, but I see a real need for someone to get in this fight and stand up for real Arkansans,” Mahony told Talk Business & Politics.
According to multiple sources, Mahony has met with representatives of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and potential staffers and consultants who could be part of a campaign team. They include professionals in the areas of campaign management, finance, legal/compliance, and media/messaging.
Mahony, 38, tells Talk Business & Politics that his statement is all he’s willing to say at this time.
2018 CONGRESSIONAL RACE
Mahony, an El Dorado native, is a leader in several state and local non-profits and is a part-owner of a natural resources company, according to his latest bio. He and his wife, Rhianon, live in Fayetteville.
In 2018, he challenged incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers. Womack won the Third District race over Mahony 64.7%-32.6%.
Mahony campaigned in 2018 on issues ranging from health care to renewable energy and a variety of education and immigration issues.
In recent weeks, Mahony’s Twitter feed has posted his commentary on anti-immigration legislation, equal pay for women, Arkansas Works, and Sen. Cotton’s effort to seek an IRS investigation of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“I knew Tom Cotton had gone to Washington and lost his way. Now I’m thinking he might’ve lost his mind too,” Mahony tweeted on April 2.
GOP INCUMBENT ADVANTAGE
Arkansas’ conservative bent makes the Mahony challenge a significant uphill battle. Republicans won overwhelmingly in statewide and local races in 2018, including Governor and other constitutional officers, all four Congressional Districts, and supermajorities in the Arkansas Legislature.
In 2014, Cotton beat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor in one of the nation’s most-watched match-ups and a sea change election in Arkansas political history. Cotton defeated Pryor by a 56.5% to 39.4% margin, including winning 62 of 75 counties statewide. That year, Republicans won all Congressional and statewide races and racked up large majorities in the General Assembly.
The race saw Cotton spend roughly $14 million on his campaign, while Pryor spent about $14.5 million. Out-of-state advocacy groups spent a combined $39 million in additional money in political advertising on the Cotton-Pryor race. In total, more than $67 million was spent by all sides during the epic 2014 Senate battle.
Cotton announced last year that he planned to seek re-election in 2020. He has no known announced challengers in the Republican or Democratic parties. Mahony’s challenge, if it materializes, would be the first publicly announced contender to the state’s junior senator.
In a recent Talk Business & Politics interview, Cotton highlighted his domestic and international achievements in the U.S. Senate, stating that he would campaign on these issues in his 2020 re-election bid.
Cotton’s re-election campaign announced Tuesday (April 16) that it raised $935,000 in direct contributions and an additional $100,000 through a joint fundraising committee during the first quarter for a total of more than $1 million. A representative for Cotton’s campaign said the senator has $2.83 million cash on hand as of the end of March.