With speculation mounting that freshman Rep. Tom Cotton will seek the GOP nod to oppose Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Democrats are eyeing Cotton's 4th District as one of the 17 seats that would give them control of the U.S. House in 2014.
With the exception of Cotton, who was first elected last fall, and former Republican Rep. Jay Dickey, who held the House seat from 1993-2001, the Razorback State's 4th District has been firmly in Democratic hands since it was created in 1875.
Given a race with no incumbent and a crowded Republican primary, Democrats reason, they can retake the 4th with the right candidate.
The name most mentioned as a Democratic hopeful is that of U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge. Should Eldridge decline to run, 4th District Democrats mention state Rep. John Vines of Hot Springs as a possible contender. Both are considered centrists.
Among Republicans, a large cast of candidates seems certain, including Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who declined a bid for the open governorship in 2014.
Former beauty queen Beth Anne Rankin (Miss Arkansas 1994), who has lost two bids for the seat in 2010 and 2012, may make a third run. Also reportedly eyeing the race is state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman and state Reps. Lane Jean of Magnolia and Matthew Shepherd of El Dorado. All are regarded as strong conservatives in the mold of Cotton.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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