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U.S. Senator Mark Pryor drawing fire for remarks about opponent’s military service

Pryor says U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton gives off ‘sense of entitlement’ because of his Army service

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK (CFP) – Arkansas Republicans are demanding an apology from U.S. Senator Mark Pryor for saying in a television interview that his GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, has exhibited a “sense of entitlement” because he served in the U.S. Army.

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

In an interview with MSNBC on March 5, Pryor was asked whether Cotton’s military service, which is prominently mentioned in his campaign, should be a qualification to become a senator.

“No, there’s are a lot of people in the Senate who didn’t serve in the military,” Pryor said. “In the Senate, we have all kinds of different people, all kinds of different folks that have come from all kinds of different backgrounds.”

“And I think that’s part of this sense of entitlement that (Cotton) gives off, is that almost it’s like, ‘I served my country, therefore elect me to the Senate.’ That’s not how it works in Arkansas.”

However, Pryor also said he has “total respect” for Cotton’s two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and thanked him for his service.

But the Arkansas Republican Party pounced on what it called Pryor’s “outrageous” comments.

“To suggest, as Senator Pryor has, that military service is not a qualification to run for office is an affront to every man and woman who has put on the uniform to serve this country,” State GOP Chairman Doyle Webb said in a statement.. “He should immediately apologize to them and to Congressman Tom Cotton.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

Responding to Pryor’s comments on the Fox News Channel, Cotton, who graduated from Harvard Law School before joining the Army, said, “I didn’t leave a good law job to join the Army out of a sense of entitlement. I left because I wanted to serve my country.”

“I’m not like Mark Pryor. I haven’t spent 25 years in politics, but I can tell you this — you learn a lot more about leadership at officer candidate’s school and Ranger school at Ft. Benning and leading troops in the streets of Baghdad than you learn in the halls of Congress.

Cotton also said he was “surprised that Mark Pryor doesn’t think we need more veterans in Congress.  Frankly, I think if we had more people in the Congress who were veterans, Congress might be a little more respected, just like our military is.”

So far, Pryor has not apologized. His campaign did release a statement saying that while the senator is “grateful” for Cotton’s military service, the campaign should be a contrast between their records in Congress.

“Cotton has said himself that military experience shouldn’t be the sole or primary qualification for political office,” the statement said.

Watch Pryor’s comments on Cotton’s military service:

Democrat Travis Childers jumps into Mississippi U.S. Senate race

Childers, a former congressman, hopes to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

♦By Rich Shumate,

mississippi mugTUPELO, Mississippi (CFP) — U.S. Senator Thad Cochran’s quest for a seventh term faces a new complication with a potentially formidable Democrat, Travis Childers, entering the race even as Cochran is dealing with a primary challenge.

Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers

Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers

Childers, who represented northern Mississippi in the U.S. House from 2008 to 2011, said he’s running because Washington is “more partisan and dysfunctional than ever.”

“What I know is that the old ways of Washington aren’t working, and a new breed of partisanship isn’t the answer,” Childers, 55, said in statement announcing his candidacy on February 28.

“Mississippians know that I have a solid record of being an independent guy who will work across party lines and stand up to the powers that be when needed.”

When he ran for re-election to his U.S. House seat in 2010, Childers, who styles himself a Blue Dog Democrat, had the backing of the National Right to Life Committee and the National Rifle Association. But he still lost in the GOP wave to U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnalee.

Despite the Magnolia State’s pronounced Republican tilt, Childers gives the Democrats at least a fighting chance in the general election, particularly if Cochran doesn’t survive a primary challenge from State Senator Chris  McDaniel, a Tea Party favorite who is getting backing from national conservative groups.

McDaniel, 41, has been endorsed by both the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which have been critical of Cochran for being, in their view, insufficiently conservative. Chief among Cochran’s sins: His vote in favor of the compromise legislation that restarted the government.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran, 75, is the most senior Republican in the Senate and was a former chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Since winning election in 1978, he hasn’t faced serious opposition, winning re-election four times with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Cochran is one of five Southern Republican senators facing a Tea Party-inspired prmary challenges this year. Those other races are in Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucy.

Party leaders have expressed concerns that if any of those Republicans fall, it could open those seats to Democrats and imperil GOP hopes of taking back the Senate this year.

Oklahoma’s House Speaker, T.W. Shannon, running for U.S. Senate

As Shannon gets in, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine says he won’t run to replace Tom Coburn

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

oklahoma mugOKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon is running for his state’s open U.S. Senate seat, setting up a Republican primary between two rising GOP stars in the Sooner State.

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

“As bad as things are right now, I have great hope for our future,” Shannon said in a YouTube video announcing his candidacy January 29. “If conservatives here in Oklahoma and across America will unite and send the right leaders to Washington, we can restore prosperity.”

Meanwhile, as Shannon got in to the race, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa, a Tea Party favorite, announced that he would not run in a special election to fill the seat that U.S. Senator Tom Coburn plans to vacate at the end of the year.

That sets up a primary race between Shannon and U.S. Rep. James Lankford, a member of the House leadership. Given Oklahoma’s strong Republican tendencies, the winner of the primary is a prohibitive favorite to capture the seat in November.

Shannon, 35, from Lawton, is an African-American and also an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. A one-time aide to former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, Shannon rocketed to prominence in state politics, becoming speaker just six years after being elected in 2006.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

Lankford, 45, who represents much of metro Oklahoma City in the House, is likewise a man in a hurry. In just his second term in Congress, he was elected head of the House Republican Policy Committee, the fifth highest position in the House GOP leadership.

He also has a coveted seat on the influential House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee.

However, that insider resume has drawn fire from some Tea Party and conservative groups who had been urging Bridenstine to get into the race.

Bridenstein issued a statement January 29 saying that while he was “honored and overwhelmed by encouragement to succeed” Coburn, he decided not to make the race.

The winner of November’s special election will complete the final two years of Coburn’s term. The veteran senator, who has been battling a recurrence of prostate cancer, announced January 17 that he would step down at the end of the current Congress.

View Shannon’s announcement video:

Mitch McConnell’s GOP challenger picks up another conservative endorsement

FreedomWorks, a conservative activist group with Tea Party ties, comes out for Matt Bevin

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CFP) — The conservative jihad against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky continues, with the group FreedomWorks endorsing McConnell’s Republican primary challenger, Matt Bevin.

Kentucky Senate challenger Matt Bevin

Kentucky Senate challenger Matt Bevin

“Matt Bevin is a great upgrade for Kentuckians who are serious about transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability in government,” said Matt Kibbe, the president of the FreedomWorks, in a January 22 statement.

McConnell’s campaign dismissed the endorsement, accusing FreedomWorks of changing its focus “from conservative reform to conservative cannibalism.”

FreedomWorks, which bills itself as a champion of smaller government and lower taxes, has a history of backing anti-establishment candidates in GOP primaries, including U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

The group is backing Bevin even though the its own scorecard of Senate votes this year gives McConnell a rating of 73 out of 100.

In 2010, the group endorsed Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s successful challenge to Senate veteran Richard Lugar. Despite Indiana’s Republican tilt, Mourdock went on to lose in November after he said that if a woman gets pregnant during a rape, the pregnancy is “God’s plan.”

Republican leaders, including former Bush political consigliere Karl Rove, have been critical of FreedomWorks and two other prominent groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth, for backing weak contenders in Republican primaries, in the process helping Democrats keep control of the Senate.

The Senate Conservatives Fund has poured nearly $1 million into Bevin’s campaign, counting both direct contributions and independent expenditures made on his behalf. The Club for Growth has not yet entered the Kentucky race.

Bevin, 47, of Louisville is a former investment adviser who now runs his family’s bell manufacturing company in New Hampshire. This is his first run for political office.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

McConnell, 71, has been in the Senate since 1985. He was elected GOP leader in 2007 and would become majority leader if he wins re-election and Republicans pick up the six seats they need to take control.

McConnell has a substantial financial advantage over Bevin, outraising him by a 10-to-1 margin.

Whoever wins the Republican primary will face Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is the only Democrat in race.

McConnell is the Democrats’ top Senate target in 2014 and likely the only chance they have to pick up a seat anywhere in the South.

Oklahoma Senate race takes shape, as U.S. Rep. James Lankford gets in

Lankford, a Baptist pastor and rising star in the GOP leadership, is already drawing flack from conservative activists

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

oklahoma mugOKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Coburn, getting into a race that’s shaping up as a battle between the GOP establishment and its Tea Party wing.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

Lankford, 45, a Baptist pastor who was first elected to represent the state’s 5th District — based in and around Oklahoma City — in 2010, says he feels “a clear calling” to seek higher office.

“The Senate is currently the most contentious body in our government,” Lankford said in a YouTube video announcing his Senate bid. “I want to continue to bring Oklahoma common sense and solutions to a place that needs both.”

In just his second term in Congress, Lankford was elected as chair of the House Republican Policy Committee, the fifth highest position in the House leadership. He also has a coveted seat on the influential House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee.

However, that insider resume is already drawing fire from Senate Conservatives Fund, an activist group that has angered Senate GOP leaders by backing Tea Party insurgents trying to topple incumbents.

“We have reviewed his record, and it’s clear that conservatives cannot count on him to fight for their principles,” said Matt Hoskins, the group’s executive director, in a statement.

The group is critical of Lankford for his support of the recent bi-partisan budget deal, designed to avoid a government shutdown, as well as his votes to increase the federal debt limit. He’s also being criticized for a comment he made last summer that he “wouldn’t prohibit forever” illegal immigrants working their way to legal status.

The SCF is pushing instead for first-term U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa to run for Coburn’s seat. Bridenstine, a Tea Party favorite, made headlines last year after he voted against the re-election of Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Bridenstine has said he is considering the race but has not announced a decision.

Two other Republicans mentioned as possible candidates for Coburn’s seat, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, have said they will not run.

Coburn, 65, who is battling prostate cancer, announced January 17 that he would leave office at the end of the year, triggering a special election for the remaining two years of his term.

View Lankford’s announcement statement:

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