by Max Brantley
It's 5:39 p.m. and the Tom Cotton announcement for U.S. Senate is underway in the Dardanelle Community Center.
While it lasts, David Goins at Fox 16 has a livestream.
U.S Rep. Tim Griffin was the first speaker following a prayer. Then came a long introduction from Cotton's father. There's an enthusiastic crowd, though not huge crowd. Has the looks of a hometown crowd, not surprising for an event announced first in the local weekly newspaper. He has to explain of course leaving his congressional seat behind after only 7 months to attempt to move up.
UPDATE: Tom Cotton began his talk with warm remarks touching on family ties, local roots, farming, True Grit, sports, the Army, war service (his father's in Vietnam and his in Iraq).
Then politics: Corrupt politicians are taking your money and wasting it. They are giving out "special privileges and favors" to the "politically connected" and "crony capitalists." It is funny that he plays on class distinctions — the number of wealthy families in the D.C. area — when some of the wealthiest people in the world have been among his biggest financial contributors.
Then Obamacare. It's a symbol, he said, "of everything that's wrong in Washington today."
Health care is going to be rationed he said, but costs will still go up.
Arkansans deserve a senator who'll fight for change, he said. Mark Pryor? He characterized him as a career politician who stood up for Barack Obama and voted with him "90 percent of the time." This was a crowd not warm to Barack Obama. Not diverse racially either.
"Mark Pryor doesn't put Arkansas first," Cotton said.
"Stand for me in this election and I will stand for Arkansas in the U.S. Senate," he said.
UPDATE II: Brian Chilson reports that state Rep. Bruce Westerman will announce his candidacy to succeed Cotton in the 4th District at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Garland County Courthouse. Lt. Gov. Mark Darr is also expected to run. Several Democrats are also considering the race.
UPDATE III: The Cotton campaign statement:
Dardanelle, Arkansas — Arkansas 4th District Congressman Tom Cotton today announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate.
"I joined the Army to serve our country and to defend our freedom overseas," Cotton said. "That’s why I ran for Congress last year—to serve you and to defend our freedom in Washington—and that’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy to be your United States Senator.
"It’s time to say enough. Arkansans need a senator who will stand with them and stand up to Barack Obama. A senator who will say no more to the crony capitalism, the giveaways, the reckless spending, the unfair taxes, the job-killing regulations, and the concentration of unaccountable, unconstitutional power in Washington. Arkansans need a senator who won’t just stand by and accept the status quo. I will be that senator."
A full text of Cotton’s announcement speech can be found here: http://www.tomcotton.com/2013/08/tom-cotton-announces-u-s-senate-campaign/
ALSO: Go to the jump for notes from the scene by Benjamin Hardy
Rep. Tom Cotton announced his candidacy for the US Senate at 5:55 p.m. to a crowd of several hundred at the Dardanelle Community Center.
Rep. Tim Griffin came to the podium just long enough to introduce Cotton's father, who took the stage along with about a dozen other smiling family members and spoke briefly about his son's military service and his roots in Dardanelle. Those themes dominated Cotton's speech as well. "I joined the Army to defend our Constitution," he said, "and that's why I'm announcing my candidacy today for US Senate." He then moved on to condemn "big government programs" and "crony capitalism." He indicted three principle villains: Mark Pryor, Barack Obama, and "that corrupt law" called Obamacare, which he said "is a symbol for everything that's wrong with Washington today." He hammered this point again and again: "Mark Pryor is the reason Obamacare is our law today." And: "Mark Pryor votes with Obama 90% of the time"
The crowd was enthusiastic and energized, meeting Cotton's statements with applause and a handful of "Amens"; it was heavy on people over 50 and flushed-faced young men who looked to be College Republicans. There were also a good deal of state legislators on hand. The folks I talked to after the speech were visibly excited about Cotton's candidacy. I asked several people, "but can he win?" Absolutely, was the response. His military background is a huge selling point for many — and his identification of Obamacare as everything amiss with our nation struck a major chord. Republicans really don't like the ACA. One woman I spoke with immediately launched into a story about a friend whose mother had received a letter telling her to call a phone number about Obamacare. "If she had called that number, she would have been removed from Medicare and placed on the ACA," she told me. (The ACA will not remove any seniors from Medicare.) She seemed to be unsure what I was talking about when I asked her whether she supported the private option.
Enthusiasm was similarly high among the state legislators I spoke with. "He's going to win," said Rep. Bill Gossage of Ozark. I asked why he was so sure, and he said with conviction "Tom Cotton is real. And he always will be real." That was Cotton's message today — his own small town authenticity versus, as he put it in his speech, "the Washington elites who want to run your life."
State Rep. John Burris said the event had drawn 300 - 400 people, as planned.