As a proud Arkansas native and die-hard Razorback fan, I cannot think of a better topic to write about in my first Huffington Post blog piece than the hotly contested U.S. Senate race in Arkansas, and the many reasons why Arkansans and people everywhere should oppose Tom Cotton.
Whether it's his opposition to affordable student loans or his vote against the Farm Bill, Tom Cotton has proven that he's the wrong person to represent Arkansans. But of all the reasons to be concerned, the one I find most alarming is his record on women. In a state where women make up more than half the population and where women own at least 25% of businesses in the state, this is an issue that deserves attention. Ladies - listen up.
Tom Cotton's condescending attitude toward women dates back to his college days, where in a bizarre article for the Harvard Crimson he criticized feminist organizations and female divorcees, arguing that divorced women will "slide into material indigence and emotional misery," and that a woman's worst fear in life is being left by her man.
In Congress, Cotton was a lead supporter of legislation to completely ban common forms of women's contraception. And perhaps most alarmingly, Tom Cotton is the only U.S. Senate candidate in the country who voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act every chance he got - even the House Republican version.
It might surprise you to learn that Tom Cotton has acknowledged a pay gap exists between men and women in the workplace, but yet he still voted against allowing the Paycheck Fairness Act to even be considered for a vote in Congress. He actually cited the 1963 Equal Pay Act as evidence that nothing more needs to be done to ensure equal pay for women. Either Tom Cotton is living in the past, or he actually believes that nothing has changed since the 1960s.
Despite the fact that three-fourths of minimum wage earners in Arkansas are women, Tom Cotton has refused to endorse the state's 2014 ballot initiative to raise Arkansas's minimum wage to $8.50 per hour. And when it comes to women's health care, well, where do we even begin? He wants to repeal health care reform, which in Arkansas would immediately kick over 200,000 people off of their private insurance plans. For women, Cotton's reckless agenda means returning to the days when insurance companies charged Arkansas women anywhere between 21% and 55% higher premiums than men. How does Cotton counter? He argues that the Affordable Care Act hurts women disproportionally because of "Obamacare's tax on tanning salons." Seriously.
Tom Cotton is challenging Mark Pryor, Arkansas's incumbent Democratic senator whose record supporting women is, in short, glowing. Pryor co-sponsored both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. He strongly supports raising Arkansas's minimum wage and has worked hard to ensure the ballot initiative becomes law in November. Not only did Pryor support passage of the Affordable Care Act - a politically courageous vote in a state like Arkansas - but he's actually embracing it, blitzing the television airwaves in his reelection bid with an ad that reminds viewers that, thanks to health care reform, no one can ever again be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition or have their plan cancelled when they get sick.
Pryor's refusal to back down on health care reform, in contrast with Cotton's senseless support for repeal, should be especially noteworthy to women because until the new law's enactment, every single woman in Arkansas saw higher premiums than men in equivalent plans.
As voters go to the polls in November, I hope every woman in Arkansas will think long and hard about the type of leader they want. And for women outside the Natural State, I hope you'll consider throwing some support toward Mark Pryor. The stakes are too high, and by any measure Tom Cotton is the worst 2014 candidate in the country on the issues that matter most to women.
Regardless of whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, think hard about the type of senator you want to be setting policy or representing your voice in Washington. Do you deserve someone who believes in advancing and protecting women's rights, or someone who seems hell bent on holding women back every step of the way?