LITTLE ROCK — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor announced Tuesday the launch of a state tour to spread the message that his voting record on issues important to women compares favorably to that of his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle.

LITTLE ROCK — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor announced Tuesday the launch of a state tour to spread the message that his voting record on issues important to women compares favorably to that of his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle.


A spokesman for Cotton said Pryor’s support for policies of President Barack Obama is what has harmed Arkansas women, not Cotton’s votes.


At a news conference in Little Rock with members of a group of supporters known as Women for Pryor, the second-term senator repeated his past criticisms of Cotton for voting against the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act and being the only member of the Arkansas delegation to vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.


"To me that shows that he’s out of touch with what’s going on here in Arkansas," Pryor said. "I believe very strongly that Arkansans deserve better than that from the congressman and from their senator. They need to expect more out of a senator than someone who will go to Washington and will vote against equal pay for equal work and the Violence Against Women Act."


Pryor said Cotton voted against the measures because out-of-state supporters told him to. He said outside groups that support Cotton have spent $21 million on television advertising in the state.


"Why do they care about Arkansas? Well it’s pretty simple: They’re doing this because they know me, and they know that I don’t listen to them, I listen to you," he said.


Bobbi McDaniel of the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence called Cotton’s vote against the Violence Against Women Act "inexcusable" and said domestic violence shelters in Arkansas would have lost $1.6 million in annual funding if the law had not been reauthorized.


Others who took part in the news conference included Pryor’s mother, Barbara Pryor, and former Little Rock Mayor Lottie Shackelford.


Cotton spokesman David Ray said in an email Tuesday, "Senator Pryor is once again making ridiculous election-year accusations. While Senator Pryor is busy perpetrating a fictitious ‘War on Women,’ it is the Obama-Pryor economic policies that have harmed so many Arkansas women by increasing the cost of everything from health insurance to gasoline to groceries."


Pryor’s campaign said Women for Pryor is a grassroots group with more than 2,300 women volunteers across the state who participate in activities such as making phone calls and knocking on doors. As an example of a typical day, Pryor spokeswoman Mary Robbins said that on Tuesday of last week, 146 women volunteers made 6,168 phone calls to women voters.


Pryor is reaching out to women voters as he vies with Cotton in a hotly contested race that could help determine which party controls the Senate. According to the website Real Clear Politics, Cotton has an average lead over Pryor of 45.8 percent to 42.2 percent in polls conducted between Aug. 28 and last Thursday.


Pryor spokesman Erik Dorey said Tuesday the campaign’s polling shows the race is a dead heat.


Pryor said some polls show him in the lead, adding, "Honestly, I don’t put a lot of stock in polls. I never have. … What I focus on is people and getting out there around the state and taking to people, listening to people. I feel good."


Ray said, "The reason Senator Pryor’s attacks are becoming increasingly desperate and negative is because he knows his chances to win are slipping away, and the fact that Tom Cotton is leading in 11 of the last 13 polls confirms that."