WASHINGTON — The Senate Conservatives Fund, which has spent $400,000 this year campaigning against Sen. Mark Pryor’s re-election, is not ready to make a full-throated endorsement of his likely Republican opponent.
In a press release issued Wednesday, the group announced that U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, has some work to do before he gets their endorsement.
"We like Tom Cotton and we’re open to supporting his campaign if he leads on the big issues and excites the grassroots in Arkansas," said SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins.
Hoskins said that defeating Pryor, a two-term incumbent Democrat, has been the top priority of the Senate Conservatives Fund entering the 2014 election cycle. Former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a leader in the Tea Party movement, founded the political action committee to help elect conservatives to the U.S. Senate such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah. DeMint is now president of the Heritage Foundation.
At 89 percent, Cotton holds the highest score among the Arkansas delegation on Heritage Action for America’s legislative scorecard for the 113th Congress. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranks second at 72 percent. Pryor is at 16 percent.
Cotton took Heritage’s position on 20 of 22 House votes it scored. Pryor was with Heritage on four of 25 Senate votes scored.
Cotton did receive the endorsement Wednesday of the conservative Club for Growth, which has already been helping raise funds this year for his congressional campaign committee.
"Club members strongly support replacing left-wing Democrat and Obama supporter Mark Pryor with fiscally conservative Republican Tom Cotton, and we suspect Arkansans do as well," said Chris Chocola, president of Club for Growth.
The group announced a "six-figure" television ad buy that will run on cable and broadcast stations beginning Thursday that encourages Arkansas voters to support Cotton over Pryor.
The 30-second television ad criticizes Pryor for supporting the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, as well as voting for increased debt.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Pryor meanwhile had his own campaign advertisement criticizing Cotton’s voting record running on television in Arkansas, according to his campaign, which provided no other details about the extent of the ad buy or which outlets are carrying it.