Arkansas Senate Debate Recap: Mark Pryor v. Tom Cotton

Arkansas Senate Debate Recap: Mark Pryor v. Tom Cotton
Staff Photo Nick Brothers  Senator Mark Pryor supporters rally outside the UA Global Campus Tuesday, Oct. 14 evening.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers
Senator Mark Pryor supporters rally outside the UA Global Campus Tuesday, Oct. 14 evening.

There was already a bustle forming outside the final Arkansas senate debate for Senator Mark Pryor and Representative Tom Cotton at the University of Arkansas Global Campus before it even started.

Supporters held up rally signs while the leader of the pack trotted back and forth with a megaphone calling for drivers to honk for Pryor. There wasn’t a Cotton supporter in sight. There was a tent next to a limousine that had a sign that read “Billionare$ for Cotton” along with several prints of billion dollar bills featuring Tom Cotton on the front and calling out Cotton for his funding he gets from organizations like Club for Growth.

Inside, about 300 people were in attendance who were invited by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. News anchors from 4029 handled the debate questions and were quick to remind the candidates of what they were originally asked about if a candidate trailed away from the original question.

Both of the candidates in the debate fell into broken-record-type responses, often times moving away from the meat of the hard-hitting questions being asked of them. In short, Pryor was always quick to bring up that Tom Cotton “only cares about his billionaire backers” and that he has been ranked as an independent, bipartisan senator. Cotton was always quick to bring up that he was a farmer, born and raised in Arkansas, and used several different iterations of “A vote for Mark Pryor is a vote for Barack Obama.”

The questions asked in the debate covered topics about health care, education, student loans, social security, infrastructure and welfare for Arkansans.

In general when asked about the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” Pryor pointed out that 200,000 Arkansans signed up for health care with the program, and was quick to point out that Cotton insisted on taking that coverage away from them if he were to repeal it.

“Congressman Cotton has no answer for the people that he would kick off of these health insurance programs,” Pryor said.

Most all of Cotton’s responses contained ties to President Obama and how the country was in debt, and that Obamacare was hurting Medicare. He also often pointed out that Pryor voted for $700 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next 10 years.

The Farm Bill was another hot topic for the candidates, with Cotton on the defense for his vote to take away food stamps from it, moving the discussion to the nation’s debt and deficit. Pryor said that Cotton would say one thing in Arkansas and do the other in Washington, claiming that he only answers to his “mega-donors.”

As for Social Security, both candidates expressed a need for reform and a fear of seniors without it.

“I wouldn’t do anything to hurt them. I voted for no changes,” Cotton said. “Pryor can’t say the same thing. He and Barack Obama are trying to scare seniors and hold on to power. Pryor is trying to confuse the matter. We have to get people back to work. Not make the cuts Pryor did.”

In reply, Pryor said:

“I cut waste and over payment in the insurance companies,” he said. “It never hurt the program at all. I extended the life of medicare.”

When discussing the coming student loan crisis, Cotton started by explaining that he took student loans out himself for going to Harvard Law, and that Obamacare nationalized student loans.

Pryor said that Cotton voted to double interest rates on federal Stafford student loans.

“One of the things we need to do is make education more affordable,” Pryor said. “Cotton has voted to double interest rate on Stafford loans. Now he wants to repeal the program, and he used Stafford when he went to law school. Cotton doesn’t have an answer. He brags on Harvard to further his political career, but it’s not okay to take the loans away.”

When asked about the types of spending cuts he’s made as Senator, Pryor said he voted for $3 trillion in spending cuts over the last three years. He called for the focus to be on jobs, the economy and growing the middle class. Cotton, on the other hand, compared Pryor to only voting alongside Obama.

Cotton’s closing statement demonstrated most of his talking points from the debate.

“I was blessed to grow up on a farm in Yell County, Arkansas,” Cotton said. “My wife Ann and I are so excited to be expecting our first baby. We want our baby to have the same kind of opportunities that I did on that farm. I want you and your family to have those opportunities. Barack Obama’s policies are making that harder. Those policies, according to Barack Obama are on the ballot. Every single one of them. In Arkansas those policies are called to Mark Pryor. A vote for Mark Pryor is a vote for Barack Obama. Mark Pryor backs Barack Obama’s failed economic policies and cast a siding vote for Obamacare, hurting Arkansas workers, driving up the cost of your health insurance. I think there’s better way. I’ll repeal Obamacare, balance the budget, put people back to work and keep you and your family safe.”

Pryor closed by stating that Cotton is running against one man, and he is running for 3 million Arkansans, and brought up how he’s ranked as an independent senator. He pointed out that Cotton voted for cuts in student loans, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Farm bill, and disaster relief.

“Who listens to whom?” Pryor said. “I listen to you, you know that. Congressman Cotton listens to his mega donors that are underwriting his campaign.”

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