Tom Cotton on Track to Snatch Arkansas House Seat

Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 11:14 AM

By Andra Varin

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A Harvard Law School grad who put his dreams on hold to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan could be the Republican Party’s next rising star.

Tom Cotton is widely expected to beat Democrat Harmon “Gene” Jeffress, a longtime state legislator, in the race to represent Arkansas’ 4th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by Democrat Mike Ross, who is not seeking re-election.

A Talk Business/Hendrix College poll in late September gave Cotton a whopping 51 percent support, compared to 22 percent for Jeffress. The Libertarian and Green Party candidates polled in the single digits.

Tom Cotton (AP Photo)
The Daily Caller has already dubbed the 35-year-old Cotton “future Congressman Awesome.” Brought up on his family’s cattle farm in southern Arkansas, Cotton attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

The 9/11 terror attacks, which occurred during his third year of law school, got him thinking about serving in the military. Although he didn’t enlist right away, he ultimately joined the Army Rangers and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He earned a Bronze Star and a Combat Infantryman Badge.

Jeffress, who turns 64 on Oct. 18, is a former teacher who bills himself as “an average Arkansan” on his campaign website. He served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002, then became a member of the state Senate in 2003. He has a brother serving in the state Senate.

But Cotton is definitely the candidate with momentum. He has been endorsed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state’s largest newspaper, as well as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas. He’s gotten thumbs-up from the Tea Party Express, the National Rifle Association and several other gun-rights and veterans groups.

“Tom Cotton is exactly the kind of conservative we need in Washington, D.C.,” Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said in making the endorsement. “Tom Cotton has shown extraordinary commitment to serve and defend the Constitution through his service to our country in the Army. He is a true leader in ever sense of the word.”

Jeffress has been endorsed by the state’s largest union, the Arkansas AFL-CIO.

When it comes to fundraising, Cotton has a distinct advantage. He has raised $1.4 million, compared to $83,000 for Jeffress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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