Army reservist Tom Cotton handily defeated Beth Anne Rankin, an aide to former-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), in Tuesday's House Republican primary in Arkansas. It's a victory too for the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, a Cotton campaign backer and longtime Huckabee foe.
Cotton, a fast-rising star in the state Republican party, managed to raise more than $1 million -- including $300,000 from the Club for Growth -- to fund television ads across Arkansas' fourth congressional district, giving him the advantage he needed to overtake Rankin in the polls by a 20-point margin.
“Not only is he really well qualified being a Harvard graduate and military experience but he’s got the backbone to get something done when he gets to Washington,” local Cotton supporter Bob Driggers from Hot Springs Arkansas told KUAR Public Radio.
Rankin, a onetime Miss Arkansas, was the GOP standard-bearer in the 2010 race against Rep. Mike Ross (D), who is retiring this year. Although Rankin has the support of Huckabee in her repeat run this year, she hasn't been able to raise the money she needs to tout the connection.
The top two Democrats in Arkansas' fourth -- Gene Jeffress, who finished first on Tuesday with 40 percent of the vote, and attorney Q. Byrum Hurst, who received 36 percent and was the Democrats' preferred candidate -- will face a runoff election in June.
Though it's currently held by a Democrat, Cotton may have the advantage in a district that has long been trending Republican and became more favorable to the GOP after recent redistricting. If Cotton does win the general election, all of Arkansas' House seats will be held by Republicans.
The race in Arkansas marks just the most recent conflict between Huckabee allies and the Club, a grudge match that dates back as far as 2006. The National Journal has background on the grudge match:
It's no secret that Huckabee and Club have had a tense relationship over the years. In 2006, when Huckabee, as governor of Arkansas, signed a minimum wage increase into law, the Club was critical of the move, and Huckabee, in turn, was reproachful. In 2008, the group continued to blast Huckabee during his presidential run.