Josh Mahony made it official on Wednesday (May 1). He’ll seek the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton in 2020.
Mahony, 38, conducted a conference call on Wednesday declaring his intent to run just days after filing paperwork to organize his campaign bid. Talk Business & Politics first reported Mahony’s interest in the race two weeks ago.
“I’m running for Senate because Arkansans deserve a Senator who will put Arkansas first and fight to keep healthcare costs down, bring good paying jobs to our state and put the hardworking families of Arkansas above political party and special interests,” Mahony said in a statement released before his planned conference call on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, Tom Cotton went to Washington and forgot all about who he’s supposed to be working for. Washington lobbyists and corporate special interests guide every decision Tom Cotton makes, not what’s best for Arkansas.”
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.
Introduced on the conference call by State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, she called Mahony “a true champion for Arkansas” and that his “heart and head are right here with the people of Arkansas.”
Declaring he was “angry” about wages, the economy and health care, Mahony said he “could stay angry or do something about it” in announcing his intention to run.
“I’m angry that the one man who should care is so busy kissing up to lobbyists at Washington parties that he’s completely forgotten who he works for,” Mahony said.
“I’ve been talking to people all across the state and I know they’re hurting even though everybody keeps telling me how great things are. I know they’re worried about their health care, about their kids’ education, about finding a job that pays the bills and pays for a good Christmas for their family. I find it downright insulting that a Washington insider like Tom Cotton keeps telling folks how good they have it,” he added.
Mahony admitted that he would be entering a tough environment and he told reporters that he would shun corporate PAC money and focus on mobilizing voters and small donor funding.
“I’m going to beat Tom Cotton. I’m going to look out for the people of this state. And I’m not going to sell them out the second I get to the beltway. I’m certainly not going to put Mitch McConnell over Maumelle or Malvern or McGehee like Tom Cotton has,” he said. “Arkansas has been very good to me and my family. I owe this state a lot and I can’t sit by and watch people hurt while ‘out-of-touch Tom’ is eating his daily birthday cake and ignoring the people who pay his salary. I know it’s going to be a hard fight, but I’m not afraid of Tom or his godfather, Mitch.”
Cotton’s campaign fired back with confidence after the Mahony announcement.
“Senator Cotton will be re-elected because of his record delivering for Arkansas, including repealing the Obamacare mandate, helping secure funding for Arkansas infrastructure, and being a national leader in the fight against illegal drugs,” said James Arnold, campaign spokesman for the 2020 Cotton campaign.
“Josh Mahony, a perpetually failing candidate who lost his last race by 32 points, supports the Green New Deal, open borders, and sanctuary cities. We look forward to contrasting Senator Cotton’s record of service and accomplishment against whomever the Democrats decide to nominate,” Arnold added.
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 year 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. 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.