U.S. Senator Mark Pryor is launching what he brands as a state tour focusing on Republican rival Tom Cotton’s congressional record and relationship with his wealthy donors. Speaking outside the state Capitol Tuesday, Pryor linked Cotton with a lawsuit to take a state minimum wage hike off the November ballot.
The lawsuit filed this week by former GOP Attorney General primary candidate David Sterling was on behalf of an important Cotton campaign donor, Jack Stephens, Jr. The heir to the fortune built through Stephens, Inc. is an active member of one of the nation’s best funded conservative PACs. Pryor pointed out the association between Cotton and Stephens. He implied Cotton supports the effort to remove the minimum wage proposal from the November ballot.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Club for Growth and Jack Stephens, Jr., and Tom Cotton are all in the same place on this,” said Pryor.
Stephens, a chair with Club for Growth, wants the minimum wage hike off the ballot but after the measure made the ballot earlier this month Cotton said he would vote for the measure as “a citizen.” KUAR has asked Cotton’s campaign for a response to Pryor associating Stephens with Cotton. Pryor was one of the first candidates in the state to back the effort to place the minimum wage hike, to $8.50 an hour, on the ballot.
Speaking about the messaging and mission of his statewide tour at the new firefighter monument on the Capitol grounds Pryor drew on familiar campaign themes. He listed specific votes of Cotton’s he contends have hurt Arkansas women, seniors, and students by cutting government services. Cotton’s campaign has routinely cast Pryor as a fiscally irresponsible proponent of big-government. But Pryor said it’s Cotton that is stretching the federal budget.
“He makes these huge cuts in spending that we’re talking about here but at the end of a ten year period the budget does not balance. Why doesn’t it balance? You’d think with all these cuts it’s going to balance. Well, no and the reason it doesn’t balance is you give these huge tax cuts, tax breaks to the billionaires and the budget doesn’t balance,” said Pryor.
Pryor’s prevailing message, that he reiterated when going through a list of Cotton votes on the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay, student loan interest rates, Pell grants, and Social Security, was the linking of votes to the interests of wealthy donors backing Republican opponent Tom Cotton.
“These are the folks who are buying the ads for him, these are the people who are underwriting his campaign. That’s why I say there’s a lot at stake in this election. Who do you want your Senator to listen to? Do you want them to listen to you, the people of the state of Arkansas, or the billionaire backers that back his campaign? I think the choice is fairly clear,” said Pryor.
Cotton’s campaign has regularly responded to critiques about outside influence and wealthy backers by referencing spending from Democratic leaning PACs.