Arkansas Democrats Say A Party Challenge To Republican Sen. Cotton Unlikely

Nov 25, 2019

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Michael John Gray speaks to reporters Monday about the inability of the party to put a new candidate on the ballot to challenge Sen. Tom Cotton in 2020.
Credit Daniel Breen / KUAR News

A former U.S. Senate candidate's silence on why he dropped out is making a Democratic presence in the Arkansas race unlikely. Speaking with reporters at party headquarters Monday, state Democratic Party Chair Michael John Gray voiced his disappointment.

"There are emotions all across the range of them of the frustration that at this point it does not look like there will be a Democratic candidate on the ballot," Gray said.

Democrat Josh Mahony announced via Twitter on Nov. 12 he was withdrawing from the race against Republican incumbent Sen. Tom Cotton. His decision came just hours after the candidate filing deadline passed, meaning Democrats couldn’t field another candidate unless Mahony withdrew for a specific reason outlined in state law.

Gray says he and party officials have made multiple attempts to speak with Mahony about his withdrawal, but so far, he doesn’t see a way for a new candidate to appear on the ballot.

"The statute clearly delineates the reasons; moving out of state, death or a serious illness. We have not been presented, nor have we been able to find any evidence to support any claim of a serious illness that would allow us to replace the candidate on the ballot," Gray said.

A lawyer for Mahony had said the reason for his withdrawal was a family health issue, but has not offered any additional information. Gray said numerous people would have taken Mahony’s place as the Democratic candidate challenging Cotton, but they can’t do so without more information from Mahony.

The state Republican Party had threatened to file a complaint against Mahony with the Federal Election Commission over errors on campaign filings, and later threatened legal action if Democrats attempted to replace Mahony in the race.

Gray said, going forward, the party would turn its attention to state legislative races and races for the U.S. House of Representatives. Cotton faces independent and Libertarian challengers in the 2020 election.