Democrat drops bid to challenge Sen. Tom Cotton in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Democratic candidate hoping to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton in Arkansas abruptly dropped out of the race Tuesday, citing a family health concern, leaving Democrats with no one to contest the seat.

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Josh Mahony announced on Twitter that he was ending his campaign, two hours after the filing deadline for Arkansas expired. It was unclear what options, if any, the party might have for replacing him in the race.

Mahony did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

"It has been the honor of my life to be able to meet and visit with so many Arkansans over the last six months and hear their voices. It was my sincere hope to be their advocate in Washington, DC," Mahony said in a statement posted on Twitter. "However, in this moment right now, I need to focus on my family and place their interests first."

Mahony was the only Democrat who had filed to run against Cotton.

The announcement leaves Democrats without a candidate to challenge Cotton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014. Mahony had badly trailed Cotton in fundraising and faced an uphill challenge in the solidly red state. Cotton last month reported having more than $4 million in the bank for his re-election bid, while Mahony had $25,833.

"Sen. Cotton is praying for Josh and his family. He hopes they recover and he wishes them well," Brian Colas, a consultant for Cotton's campaign, said.

State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray said he was not aware of Mahony's plans until the tweet and was unsure what options the party may have. Arkansas law generally only allows parties to replace nominees because of death or serious illness.

"I've reached out to some election officials and we're gathering that information," Gray said.

Mahony last year unsuccessfully challenged Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack in northwest Arkansas.

Libertarian candidate Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. and Independent candidate Dan Whitfield have also filed to run against Cotton.

Mahony announced in May that he was challenging Cotton, accusing the GOP lawmaker of losing touch with constituents. Cotton in September began running a digital ad that didn't mention Mahony, but instead criticized former Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke's call for confiscating assault rifles.

Before he dropped out of the race, the state GOP said Tuesday it planned to file a complaint with the FEC against Mahony that accused him of falsely listing himself as a small business owner on contribution records.

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