Cotton’s office defends no appearance at debate; Harrington visits Fort Smith

Max Bryan
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR, left, is running against Ricky Dale Harrington.

The office of Arkansas’ U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton responded Friday to several of Libertarian opponent Ricky Dale Harrington’s main points over the Oct. 14 debate on Arkansas PBS in which Cotton did not take part.

The Republican senator’s press secretary, James Arnold noted in an email to the Times Record that Cotton’s six-year record in the upper house is “well known,” including efforts to lower healthcare costs for Arkansans, take a stand for American workers and gun rights and stand against unauthorized immigration and abortion. Harrington said he believed Cotton didn’t want to “breathe life” into his campaign by showing up.

Harrington and other Libertarian candidates for federal, state and county offices held a meet-and-greet Friday evening in Fort Smith.

Harrington said he is “diametrically opposed” to Cotton after pondering and not finding anything he and the senator agree on. Friday night he said he is running to encourage others to take interest in the federal government and has asked voters in the state to vote for him “because (Cotton) surely doesn’t care about Arkansans.”

Arnold in his email said Cotton “is not opposed to anything that helps the people of Arkansas.”

“Tom Cotton works hard to represent the interests of all Arkansans in Washington and to achieve the results they want,” Arnold wrote.

One of several of Cotton’s actions cited in the email was the senator’s efforts to lower the cost of healthcare for Arkansans, including “eliminating the hated Obamacare mandate and by working with the Trump administration to encourage the introduction of generic drugs, which lowers drug costs.”

Cotton in 2017 voted for a bill against the Affordable Care Act’s penalty for citizens without health insurance, which President Donald Trump signed into law.

Harrington in the debate said healthcare is “really important” to him and would like to work toward a system where public and private healthcare are both viable options. He also said he wants to remove obstacles for healthcare officials to create change at a ground level.

Incarceration levels

Harrington noted he disagrees with Cotton’s 2016 statement that the U.S., which holds about 22% of the world’s prison population, has an “under-incarceration” problem. Cotton in his statement said law enforcement doesn’t arrest or identify perpetrators in a majority of property and violent crimes and said officials can’t decrease punishment for crimes without increasing crime.

Arnold claimed Cotton was “proven right” about the 2018 First Step Act that released 3,100 people from prison in 2019 and said he’s seen inmates released early commit more crimes against people.

Harrington said he would like to focus on making sure the incarcerated have harmed others.

“We do not need to send people to prison when there is no victim, especially with drug possession charges,” Harrington said, adding that drug trafficking sentences could also be lowered and evidence for some prisoners including death row inmates reexamined.

'No quarter’

When discussing protests — an adjacent topic to criminal justice reform — Harrington opposed Cotton and called on June 1 for “no quarter” against rioters following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. He contrasted these remarks with Cotton in November 2019 defending Hong Kong protesters against the Chinese government. He also said rioters who commit crimes “still have constitutional rights.”

Arnold said Cotton’s call for “no quarter” — a prosecutable offense under the Geneva Convention and in disagreement with senior military personnel — was an opposition to “radical left-wing rioters who were putting lives and livelihoods at risk.” Cotton in a subsequent tweet cited Collins Dictionary’s definition of “no quarter,” which says a person is “not treated kindly by someone who had power or control over them.”

“We should show no quarter — zero tolerance — for violence against innocent Americans, whether it’s by foreign nations or domestic, politically-motivated rioters,” Arnold said.

Harrington visited Fort Smith Friday evening at Hartgraves Private Park, near Martin Luther King Jr. Park. He was joined by Libertarian candidates Michael Kalagias, challenging 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Democratic candidate Celeste Williams; as well as Stephen Edwards, challenging District 77 state Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith; and Sebastian County Justice of the Peace candidate Brian Leach, challenger of Republican Lorrie Ann Gidewell Runion.

Early voting continues in Arkansas until Election Day, Nov. 3.