The 2014 Senate race between incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton will feature many contrasts between the candidates.
Most notably, the Cotton campaign will continue to highlight Pryor’s vote for ObamaCare and his mostly reliable votes for President Obama’s policies in the Senate. Meanwhile, Pryor’s campaign will focus on Cotton’s ties to the Tea Party and conservative groups who try to paint him as too far to the right for Arkansas.
But there are others issues where voters can find contrasts, as we saw this past week on the issue of abortion.
Every January, pro-lifers mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states — with marches and rallies opposing legalized abortion. Making it clear where he stands, Cotton spoke at the Arkansas March for Life in Little Rock where he promised to continue to promote a culture of life.
"Like all people, unborn children are entitled to the God-given right to life and liberty enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed in our Constitution," said Cotton. "And I’m working in Congress to defend the sanctity of human life and to preserve and protect the rights of all children, born and unborn. I’ve sponsored legislation that would stop taxpayer dollars from going to organizations that perform abortions. I’ve also supported a bill that would declare that life begins at conception and, as we continue in our efforts to protect the unborn, a bill that stops abortions after the fetus is capable of feeling pain. And I continue to oppose Obamacare and its regulations, with its unconstitutional mandates that private organizations, including churches, pay for abortion."
Cotton’s voting record backs his words, scoring 100 percent on votes tracked by the National Right to Life. Pryor scores a 35 percent on his votes tracked by the same group in his 12 years in the Senate.
The voting record goes along with a position by Pryor which has been all over the map during his career. Asked about his position on abortion in 1998 while running for attorney general, Pryor simply said, "I am pro-choice."
But by 2013, his position seems to have evolved from clearly pro-choice to basically somewhere in the middle
"I’ve always leaned toward the pro-life side of that, but I don’t fit neatly into any of the categories," Pryor told a Northwest Arkansas television station when asked about his view on abortion last April. "I certainly respect that there are circumstances where the woman should be able to make that decision. Of course, I want that to be as infrequent as possible. But I do think that there are times when a woman should make that decision."
This past week, Pryor has ducked reporters’ questions about his upcoming vote on a Senate bill that would ban abortion after the point at which unborn babies can experience pain. This is a federal bill similar to a 20-week ban passed by the Arkansas General Assembly last year.
Regardless of a voter’s views on the issue of abortion, they ought to be able to get a clear answer on where the candidates stand. With Cotton, it is clear he favors laws that will limit abortion and protect life. With Pryor, it seems to depend on the year.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.