WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is running for re-election in 2014, but for now he’d rather do it quietly.
"People are sick and tired of talking about politics and campaigns and the next election cycle," Pryor told reporters Wednesday. "People need to catch their breath."
Pryor put to bed speculation earlier this year that he might retire from Congress after two terms, telling supporters in an April letter that he planned to run in 2014.
He faced no Republican opponent in 2008 but is now considered among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in 2014, and his re-election bid will draw national attention.
Republican Reps. Tim Griffin of Little Rock and Steve Womack of Rogers, and Rep.-elect Tom Cotton of Dardanelle all have hinted at a potential challenge.
Doyle Webb, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, said one of the party goals for 2014 is to replace Pryor " and to complete the Arkansas delegation as a 100 percent Republican delegation."
"We’re in conversation with some interested candidates who are evaluating the race," Webb said."I can’t release any names until one of them authorizes me to do so."
Pryor said that for now he’s concentrating on his Senate duties, not on possible challengers in 2014.
"I’m not going to think twice about all that stuff. I’m going to do my job and try to work with every member of the Arkansas delegation," he said.
Arkansas’ congressional delegation was comprised of five Democrats and one Republican when he last stood for re-election four years ago. When the new Congress convenes in January, Pryor will be the only Democrat.
The senator said Wednesday he plans to work with any and all members of the House and Senate, as well as the White House, to "get things done."
"We have way too many issues that are way too important — way too big and complicated — to already start dumbing that up with conversations about 2014. I’m very focused on doing my job," Pryor said.
Jay Barth, a professor of politics at Hendrix College, said that it makes sense for Pryor to downplay partisan politics at this point.
"The Arkansas electorate still likes moderates, so he seems to be positioning himself pretty well," Barth said. "He will emphasize that he is right in the middle."