Officially kicking off what will likely be one of the most closely watched Senate races in the 2014 election cycle, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) announced Tuesday night that he will challenge Democratic Senator Mark Pryor.
Making his announcement in his hometown of Dardanelle, the freshman congressman described himself as a Washington outsider who will “stand up to Barack Obama” and “say ‘no more’ to the crony capitalism, the giveaways, the reckless spending, the unfair taxes, the job-killing regulations, and the concentration of unaccountable, unconstitutional power in Washington.”
Full text of Cotton’s announcement speech:
I want to thank my Dad for introducing me. You all know my Dad. He’s been the voice of Sand Lizard football for 25 years. That makes you a celebrity in Dardanelle.
If you know my Dad, you probably know he’s a bit of a worrier. When we first planned this event, he worried we wouldn’t have enough people, so he insisted we advertise in the Yell County Record last week. A couple hours later, it was national news. That’s when Dad called me to say he was worried we wouldn’t have enough food.
Of course, you all know my Mom, too. She was a teacher and principal at the Dardanelle schools for 40 years. I bet many of you had her growing up, maybe your kids and grandkids, too. When you teach for that long in one place, you become an expert on local family trees.
My sister Sarah is here, too, along with her husband Jay and the newest member of the Cotton family, little J.T.
Give my family a hand, will you? I owe them all more than I could ever repay.
I see a lot of familiar faces tonight: teachers, coaches, childhood friends, teammates, neighbors and mentors. And I owe you all a debt, too.
Dardanelle is a special place, where life’s lessons are passed from one generation to the next. I learned a lot of those lessons working on our farm as a kid: the value of hard work, service and sacrifice, courage, responsibility, thrift, humility—you might even say we learned true grit around these parts. My Dad learned those same lessons from his Uncle Fred when he worked the same farm with him as a boy.
I learned those lessons from my grandma—Mammy—and my great-aunt Pood, who’d care for Sarah and me while Mom and Dad worked to make a better life for us. I’m blessed to live in Uncle Fred and Aunt Pood’s old home now, where I played and slept as a little boy, just like my Dad did in the 1950s when he was a little boy.
I learned those lessons in Sunday school and church at First United Methodist, where J.T. was just baptized last month, where Sarah and I were baptized as infants, and where my Dad was, too.
Those kind of roots run deep in a place like Dardanelle. They’re a heritage that becomes a part of who you are.
Another part of that heritage is duty and patriotism. Our town, our state has born its share of the battle over the years. So has my family. My grandpa volunteered for the Navy in World War II. My Dad volunteered for the Army and went to Vietnam, even though he had a valid deferment from the draft. I volunteered for the Army because of the 9/11 attacks and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I can’t say my parents were thrilled. A lot of you probably remember that. In fact, my Dad said he felt like God was punishing him for what he did to his dad in 1968. But in the end, even though they were fearful as any parents would be, my folks supported me because they knew it was the right thing to do. They knew I joined the Army because of the very lessons I learned from them and from growing up in a place like Dardanelle. I joined the Army to serve our country and to defend our freedom overseas.
That’s why I ran for Congress last year—to serve you and to defend our freedom in Washington—and that’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy to be your United States Senator.
Some say I haven’t been in Washington long enough to run for Senate. But I’ve been there long enough to know Washington has to change. I don’t have a lot of seniority in Washington. I don’t think that’s a bad thing these days. But I have served you in a different way in faraway places. Because of that, I can see that Washington isn’t serving you today.
The politicians and bureaucrats there are playing a corrupt game. They take your money and they waste it on big-government programs that empower and enrich them while not serving you. They boss you around and they act like they’re your betters. They hand out special privileges and favors—to whom? Not hardworking Arkansans. To the politically connected and the crony capitalists who bend the power of government for their own private gain. That’s why seven of the ten wealthiest counties in the country are in the Washington, DC area.
Who’s left with the bill? You are. And your kids are—$17 trillion of debt. Meanwhile, Arkansas families are struggling to get by. Wages are stagnant and have been for years, while the cost of everything from groceries to gas to education keeps going up. For most people, they feel like they’re just treading water—and sometimes not even that.
And it’s only going to get worse if Obamacare goes into effect. That corrupt law and its tangled web of mandates, taxes, penalties, and fines symbolize everything that’s wrong with Washington. Folks, the cost of your health care is going up and the quality is going down. Seniors, especially those on Medicare, your access to care is going to be restricted and rationed. We’ll pay more in taxes, yet still get more debt. Your tax dollars will subsidize abortion. And part-time jobs will become the new normal in America.
It’s time to say enough. Arkansans need a senator who will stand with them and stand up to Barack Obama. A senator who will say no more to the crony capitalism, the giveaways, the reckless spending, the unfair taxes, the job-killing regulations, and the concentration of unaccountable, unconstitutional power in Washington. Arkansans need a senator who won’t just stand by and accept the status quo. I will be that senator.
Mark Pryor is not that senator, at least not anymore. Mark’s been running for office for almost 25 years. Every time, he says, “Arkansas comes first.” It’s not so. Over the last four-and-a-half years, for Mark Pryor, Barack Obama comes first.
Mark Pryor is the reason Obamacare is the law today. He could’ve stopped it, but he stood with Obama instead. Mark Pryor voted for Obama’s wasteful stimulus that added almost a trillion dollars to the debt, without lasting job growth. Mark Pryor voted for Obama’s amnesty plan for illegal immigrants that will hurt Arkansas families by driving up unemployment and driving down wages, without securing the border. Mark Pryor votes with Barack Obama over 90% of the time. Mark Pryor doesn’t put Arkansas first any more—Mark Pryor puts Barack Obama first.
Just four days ago, Mark Pryor even said it would be a “waste” of a Senate seat to elect a senator to oppose Barack Obama. Well, I’ll put it very simply: Do you agree with Barack Obama 90% of the time? If so, Mark Pryor is your man. If not, stand with me in this election and I’ll stand with Arkansas in the United States Senate.
Because that’s the simple choice: Barack Obama’s Washington versus our Arkansas heritage. This isn’t about Democrats and Republicans. A lot of you are Democrats, and you supported me last year. My Dad’s a Democrat. Last year was the first time he voted in a Republican primary—and I had to convince him to do that.
This is an election about you, and who stands with you. By his voting record, Mark Pryor has proven that he stands with Barack Obama and the Washington elite who want to run your life. Whether it’s standing up to Barack Obama or my own party leaders—which I’ve proven I’ll do—I will stand with you and I will stand with Arkansas.
I need you to stand with me. Some people say I’m a young man in a hurry. Guess what? They’re right; we’ve got urgent problems and I am in a hurry to solve them. With $17 trillion of debt, you’d think more people in Washington would be in a hurry. When the problems are this grave, time is not a luxury.
In the Army, they trained us that leaders don’t sit quietly on the backbench hoping someone else will solve a problem. Real leaders do their duty, take responsibility, and tackle problems—even if that means, as we said in the Army, sometimes doing the hard right over the easy wrong.
This won’t be easy. I need your help. You all—family, friends, all of Dardanelle—you’ve been with me from the beginning, back when I was playing ball for the Sand Lizards, when I was overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, or when I ran my first campaign last year. I need you there now, all the way to the end.
I’m grateful you came tonight, but make no mistake: this is not a party, this is not a celebration—this is a mission briefing, just as sure as when I briefed missions from a map on the hood of a Humvee in Iraq. I’m asking you to commit to this mission.
And I’ll make some commitments to you. No one will outwork me. I will defend our shared principles every day against those who attack them. I will do the right thing—even when it’s the hard thing. And I will never, ever forget how I was raised or where I come from.
Let’s commit to each other. Let’s go win this campaign together. Let’s elect a senator who, when he says “Arkansas comes first,” actually means it.
Thank you, God bless you, God bless our great state and our beloved country.