Rep. Tom Cotton keeps trying to remind Arkansas voters that Sen. Mark Pryor once supported some degree of gun control.
But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t helping.
The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, of which Bloomberg is chairman, has bankrolled $350,000 worth of television ads in Arkansas to hit Pryor, a Democrat, for opposing a Senate bill to expand background checks.
For Cotton, a Republican who is challenging Pryor in a competitive Senate race and trying to portray him as anti-guns, the ads send an untimely and highly visible message to Arkansans that shows exactly the opposite.
So, as Cotton was peppered with questions about gun control at campaign events across Arkansas during his first few days as a candidate, he often seized the opportunity to remind voters about Pryor’s record on the issue dating back almost a decade.
“Mark Pryor’s vote to take away Arkansans’ guns is going to haunt him,” Cotton expounded in an interview, referring to a vote by Pryor in 2004 to reauthorize a ban on assault weapons. “It’s very convenient that he’s had an election-year conversion when he’s an endangered incumbent, voting now against measures like the Manchin-Toomey amendment.
“But that can’t make up for his vote to take away Arkansans’ guns,” Cotton added. “Arkansans remember that, they will remember it when they go to the polls in November.”
Pryor is working to ensure they won’t. On Thursday, he participated in a groundbreaking ceremony in Lonoke, Ark., for a Remington Arms ammunition plant. And when Bloomberg released his ad, Pryor jumped at the opportunity to tout his pro-Second Amendment credentials in a web video.
“I’m Mark Pryor, and I approve this message because no one from New York or Washington tells me what to do,” Pryor says in the video.
It’s enough to make some Arkansas Republicans think that Bloomberg’s ad was not even an attack.
“I’m not sure that the ad was really against Pryor,” Jerry Patton, of Fayetteville, Ark., said at a Cotton campaign event at Neal’s Café in Springdale, Ark. “I think the ad was more to make a statement about Bloomberg and his beliefs, that when you have a Democrat that takes one step to the side and doesn’t follow the marching orders, you get slammed.”
At Cotton’s campaign kickoff Tuesday in Dardanelle, Ark., Bloomberg’s ad blitz occasionally popped up in conversation among supporters, including three men who stood in a circle chatting casually about it.
“Do you think anyone can get elected in Arkansas if they’re against guns?” one of the men asked rhetorically.
They all laughed.