Nobody seems to be taking a break from politics.
With 2013 just around the corner, many politicos are already looking ahead to the 2014 elections.
Going back to election night in November, Republicans were waving signs that read “Retire Pryor,” referring to U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, whose seat is back on the ballot in 2014. Pryor is a Democrat, so winning the last remaining seat in Arkansas’ congressional delegation is no doubt high on the GOP’s priority list, along with taking the governor’s mansion after incumbent Gov. Mike Beebe hits his term limit.
The last time Pryor ran for office, in 2008, no Republican even bothered to run against him. There was some talk of former Gov. Mike Huckabee jumping in, but he instead made a run at the presidential nomination.
The Arkansas political landscape has drastically shifted since 2008. Republicans defeated U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln and picked up two House seats in 2010 before picking up the final one in 2012.
And with Pryor having a similar voting record as Lincoln, particularly on high-profile items such as President Obama’s federal health care initiative, national Republicans are hopeful the Senate seat from Arkansas will be a key pickup in their effort to take the majority in the Senate.
This means national money will be available to the right GOP candidate. Who is that?
One potential candidate — Congressman Tim Griffin — took himself out of the running last month when he was appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Third District Congressman Steve Womack is the next name of the list, hailing from the same Northwest Arkansas district that Sen. John Boozman parlayed into a Senate seat. The geography of the Republican primary is such that this district has a large impact on the Republican nominee, which gives Womack a distinct advantage in a primary.
The question for Womack is not so much could he get the nomination, but will he run. Although he has done quite well in his two years in Congress, his background is more suited for an executive position, not a legislative one.
Prior to his election to Congress, he served successfully as mayor of Rogers for over 12 years. His demeanor – for better or worse — is suited more to being the boss than one member of a large body. His background and personality may lead him to run for governor rather than U.S. Senate.
And with Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s stumbles in the past week, the governor’s race certainly looks wide open.
That leaves two more Republican congressmen.
It is doubtful that Rep. Rick Crawford would seek to make a move, but Rep.-elect Tom Cotton seems a much more likely candidate. He coasted to victory in his first race in 2012, has a stellar resume and seems to be able to raise buckets of money with little effort.
Cotton’s biggest drawback is that he was just elected and has not even been sworn into office yet.
However, if no strong candidate emerges in the next year, there is good chance Cotton will be encouraged to jump in.
There are other potential candidates out there as well. Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who would have to overcome some public issues of his own, has indicated he would consider either race. Darr would be more likely to run for an open congressional seat if Womack goes a different direction. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson has made no secret he is looking at running for governor. An announcement is likely in January.
In many ways, the ball is in Womack’s court. He would have a key advantage in a race for the Senate or as the state’s chief executive. His decision likely will create a domino effect for other Republicans.
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Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.