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AP Interview: Pryor says Cotton alienates Arkansas

August 2, 2013

LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor on Friday accused expected Republican rival Tom Cotton of alienating farmers, students and many others since joining Congress in January, and said he hopes Arkansas voters don't waste one of the state's two Senate seats by backing the freshman lawmaker.

Pryor, a two-term Democratic lawmaker from Arkansas, said he's prepared for a tough race against Cotton, but he pushed back against the notion that he's vulnerable as he seeks re-election next year. Cotton, who was elected to south Arkansas' 4th Congressional District, is expected to announce Tuesday night that he'll challenge Pryor.

"In seven short months, he's managed to alienate farmers, students, seniors, the business community, the list just goes on and on with his voting record," Pryor told The Associated Press during an interview at his campaign office. "When you vote against the Farm Bill, when you vote against student loans, when you vote against the Violence Against Women Act, when people in Arkansas see that and understand that, they're not going to like the way he votes."

Cotton voted against an initial version of the Farm Bill over objections that included the food stamp program. He voted for the bill after the food stamp provision was removed. Cotton voted against a measure approved by the House this week that would lower the costs of college borrowing for millions of students and voted against the Violence Against Women Act in February.

Pryor is widely viewed by Republicans as the most vulnerable Senate incumbent next year. Groups on the right and left have already been blanketing the state with ads criticizing him.

A spokesman for the state Republican Party said Friday that Pryor failed Arkansas voters by supporting President Obama's stimulus and health care packages.

"There's a reason he's the most vulnerable Senator in America - he doesn't represent the views of the people of Arkansas," state GOP spokesman David Ray said.

Pryor said he believes Cotton is motivated primarily by opposition to Obama, who remains deeply unpopular in Arkansas. Pryor questioned what Cotton would do after the president's term ends in 2017.

"I hope Arkansas doesn't want to waste one of their two Senate seats," Pryor said. "You only get two, and I hope Arkansas doesn't waste one of its Senate seats just to send someone to Washington to oppose a president for two years."

Pryor said he hasn't asked Obama to campaign for him in the state. He acknowledged the Democratic president's unpopularity in Arkansas and said part of that stems from the 2008 presidential campaign, when Hillary Rodham Clinton easily won the state's Democratic primary.

"The other thing is if you look at the president's policies, he just doesn't offer a lot to states like Arkansas," Pryor said. "He doesn't offer a lot to rural America. I've encouraged the White House to remember rural America and remember small -town America. They just don't have a lot of policies that are geared toward middle America."

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