Clearly frustrated by a lack of information, Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) chairman Michael John Gray closed the door on his party fielding a candidate to challenge Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., in 2020 after Josh Mahony’s sudden and unexpected departure from the race two weeks ago.
On Monday (Nov. 25) Gray held a press conference at the party’s Little Rock headquarters to explain that he has learned little since Mahony dropped out of the race on Tuesday, Nov. 12 just two hours after candidate filing period closed. Mahony cited a “family health concern” as his reason for exiting a race that he was already at a disadvantage to win.
Gray said that Mahony had confirmed he would participate in a Monday, Nov. 18, meeting with Democratic Party officials to provide more insight into his reason for withdrawal. Late Friday, Nov. 15, the party said it received a letter from Fayetteville attorney Mark Henry, who said he represented Mahony and that future communications should be directed to him.
“I represent Mr. Joshua Mahony and he asked me to provide you with clarity in his position,” Henry wrote in a Nov. 15 letter to the DPA. “He has attempted to contact several members of the party but has not been successful. Although he is willing to visit, he wants to make sure the Party does not misconstrue the reasons for his exit as him having the personal health crisis. Please direct all communications to me.”
Neither Mahony nor Henry participated in the Monday meeting, according to party officials, who claim they still have not had any additional communication with either person.
“It is unfortunate that Mahony has chosen to cease communications with the DPA. In order for the DPA to proceed with fielding a candidate for the U.S. Senate race, Mahony’s cooperation is essential,” Gray said.
“The RPA [Republican Party of Arkansas] has stated multiple times that if we choose to field a candidate, they will bring a legal challenge. Currently, other than brief statements made by Mahony regarding a ‘family health concern,’ the DPA has no evidence to support a claim of serious illness. Without something more than Mahony’s statements, we cannot move forward.”
Gray told reporters today that he does not see a path for fielding a Democratic candidate for the seat based on the known facts and state statutes. He did say that had the party been given notice of Mahony’s withdrawal before the filing period closed, there were candidates willing to run for the seat.
“We continue to keep Mahony and his family in our thoughts and prayers,” Gray added. “We also believe that the public and Democrats around the state have the right to know what has occurred.”
Cotton will face Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr. in November 2020. Independent Daniel Whitfield is attempting to qualify for the ballot.