LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Democrats welcomed Republican Rep. Tom Cotton's expected entry into the Senate race Monday by launching a website painting the congressional freshman as "reckless" because of his votes on disaster relief, student loans and other issues.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas launched the site targeting Cotton, www.meettomcotton.com , the day before Cotton's expected Tuesday announcement that he will run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor next year.
"After just seven months on the job, Tom Cotton is quitting on his constituents to pursue his blind ambition for higher office," the site says. "He leaves behind a record that can only be described as reckless and irresponsible."
The site criticizes Cotton's votes against an initial version of the farm bill, a student loan measure approved by the House last week and Hurricane Sandy relief earlier this year. Cotton is a former management consultant who served in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was elected in November to represent Arkansas' 4th District, which covers the southern and western portions of the state.
State Republicans called the site a sign of desperation by Pryor, whom they criticized for supporting the federal health care overhaul. They also criticized Pryor for backing the stimulus in 2009 that many Republicans have called a failure but many economists say kept unemployment from going higher.
"These false attacks may keep Washington liberals like Mark Pryor entertained, but they don't do a single thing to alleviate the job losses brought on by Pryor's votes for Obamacare, the failed stimulus, and new taxes he has burdened Arkansas' economy with," said David Ray, a spokesman for the state Republican Party.
Republicans have blamed the health care law for the 170 layoffs announced last month by Baptist Health of Little Rock, which said it was cutting staff "to address the challenges of health reform." The health care law includes tax increases on the very wealthy as well as the requirement that most people have insurance or pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service.
Pryor's campaign, meanwhile, announced plans Monday to begin airing a television ad targeting Cotton. The 60-second spot, which is set to air Tuesday and Wednesday around the state, similarly criticizes Cotton's vote on issues such as student loans, the farm bill and Medicare.
Pryor, who was first elected in 2002, is widely viewed by Republicans as the most vulnerable Senate incumbent on the ballot next year. Groups on the right and left have already been airing television ads throughout the state targeting Pryor, who won re-election in 2008 without a Republican opponent.
Pryor has also gone on the offensive against Cotton, accusing the Republican lawmaker last week of alienating Arkansans since taking office in January.
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