It looks as though Democrats in Arkansas will not be able to field an opponent to Republican Senator Tom Cotton for the 2020 U.S. Senate race. Democrat Josh Mahony had filed for the spot during the week-long filing window. However, he abruptly dropped out shortly after the filing deadline, citing “a family health concern.”
As reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:
Josh Mahony, the only Democrat who filed to challenge U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. in 2020, announced on Twitter that he was dropping out the race just two hours after the filing period ended in Arkansas.
Mahony, a Fayetteville Democrat, cited “a family health concern” as the reason for exiting the race, saying he’d no longer be able to devote the necessary time and energy to the campaign.
Speculation on this is that “oppo research” prompted Mahony’s sudden departure.
.@SenTomCotton campaign dropped oppo on Dem challenger Josh Mahony literally minutes after filing deadline this month
Hours later, Mahony dropped out
Now, Arkansas Democrats have concluded they "will not be able to field a candidate" for Senate there. https://t.co/Iza3JiB6tv
— Stef W. Kight (@StefWKight) November 25, 2019
But this leaves Arkansas Democrats in a bind, as there is no legal pathway to substitute another candidate since the filing deadline has passed. As explained by the Democratic Party of Arkansas:
“After exhaustive and careful examination with our legal counsel and our party leaders and without additional information from Mr. Mahony, the Democratic Party of Arkansas will not be able to field a candidate for United States Senate,” said Chairman Michael John Gray. “The narrow legal window to replace Mr. Mahony as our nominee would require evidence that has not been provided to us publicly or privately. But Arkansas Democrats aren’t discouraged. There are top tier candidates in competitive state legislative and congressional races all across the state. Voters are ready to make a difference and make Arkansas a better place.”
The announcement, released yesterday, includes two attachments, a detailed chronology regarding the withdrawal and subsequent fallout, and a letter from Mahony’s attorney of (where else?) the Rose Law Firm.
While what exactly the rumored “oppo research” was remains unclear, a November 12 Press Release from the Republican Party of Arkansas cites misstatements on FEC filings:
“Today, the Republican Party of Arkansas called on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) toinvestigate repeated campaign finance misstatements by Democrat Joshua Mahony and his campaign for theUnited States Senate. Spokesman Stephen Houserman will be submitting the formal compliant with the FEC in thecoming days.”
About an hour after Gray’s statement was released, the state Republican Party responded with its own statement suggesting that any move to file a new challenger to Cotton would be illegal.
“News reports suggest that the Democrat Party is scrambling to falsify the reason for Josh’s withdrawal in an attempt to unlawfully put another candidate on the ballot,” said the statement by GOP spokesman Stephen Houserman. “Should this happen, the Republican Party of Arkansas will take aggressive legal action against all parties involved to defend the rule of law.”
As others have noted, Cotton needn’t have been overly concerned by Mahony’s challenge. Cotton boasts a +16 approval rating among all voters and a +63 approval rating among Republicans per the Morning Consult. Still, without a Democratic challenger, Cotton won’t have to worry about spending (or raising) as much money for his campaign.
Good news for Cotton – bad news for Arkansas Democrats!