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Tap Tom Cotton’s D.C. experience

With four candidates in the race to represent the Fourth Congressional District of Arkansas and no incumbent on the ballot, we familiarized ourselves with the four before reaching a decision that Tom Cotton of Dardanelle is the best candidate.

We evaluated their experience, character, integrity and tenacity. When all the dust settled, Cotton, a 35-year-old political newcomer, stood head and shoulders above the rest.

The district expanded following the 2010 U.S. Census to 33 counties. It is the largest of the state’s four districts. Covering such a far reaching district will require stamina.

Cotton, who works on his family’s cattle farm, is the Republican nominee.

Bringing the national budget in line, not increasing taxes, controlling health care costs and saving and strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are all mainstays of his candidacy.

Cotton said he will keep his promises and demonstrate real political backbone to achieve his goals. He’s not afraid to embrace reforms that are outside the comfort zone of too many politicians.

After graduating with honors from Harvard University with a degree in government, he went on to Harvard Law School, where he received his law degree. He served as a law clerk for a federal judge, and then entered private practice with a law firm, concentrating in labor, employment and constitutional law in state and federal courts.

Some time after the Sept. 11 attacks, Cotton, an Army Ranger, felt called to serve his country in uniform, and he left the law practice to join the Army, rejecting an offer of a direct commission as an Army JAG officer. Instead, he volunteered to serve as an infantryman, serving five years on active duty. He deployed to Baghdad in 2006 as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne, responsible for a 41-man air-assault infantry platoon. In that role, he planned and led daily combat patrols.

Following his Iraq deployment, Cotton was assigned as a platoon leader with The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, the oldest active infantry in the Army that provides the honor guard for burial services of American veterans at Arlington.

In 2008, he volunteered to return to the front lines and was deployed to eastern Afghanistan as the operations officer of a provincial reconstruction team, where he planned and conducted daily counterinsurgency and reconstruction operations for a joint and interagency team.

Following his military service, he worked as a business-management consultant for McKinsey and Co., a strategy, operations and finance-consulting firm with offices worldwide, which helped round out his experience.

In the end, the Fourth District race is about who will do a better job for Arkansas and who has the best ideas for tackling Washington’s dysfunction and deficit spending that impact every citizen and our future.

For example, during a 2011 showdown between Obama and congressional Republicans over raising the federal debt ceiling, a “super committee” was empowered to develop a long-term plan and balance the nation’s budget. The committee’s failure will automatically trigger sweeping spending cuts and tax hikes in early 2013 that will leave no program or taxpayer untouched.

While the congressional seat has been held primarily by Democrats, the district’s expansion includes a number of counties in Republican Northwest Arkansas. And Jay W. Dickey Jr., a Pine Bluff attorney, represented the district in Congress from 1993 to 2001 from the Republican side of the House aisle.

Cotton has earned a reputation as a hard worker and an old-fashioned patriot who will be a leader in Washington from the time he steps off the plane. He is in tune with our state’s needs and is qualified to serve Arkansas in this important and necessary role.

His wide experiences and education give him a deeper understanding of government budgets and planning challenges in these difficult economic times.

We need that experience in Washington.