Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
"What you see in this campaign, playing out on your TV screens and playing out in your mailboxes is a business transaction. ... Congressman Cotton is a good investment for them, and that's why they've spent more than $20 million on television trying to buy this Senate seat. But ladies and gentlemen, you know what: This seat is not for sale."
— Sen. Mark Pryor
"There are only three things for certain in life: death, taxes and the unpopularity of Obamacare in the South."
— GOP strategist Bill Vickery
"It's a pretty good scam isn't it? Give me a six-year job for a two-year protest. That's Mark Pryor's opponent's message."
— Bill Clinton, campaigning in Arkansas, on Tom Cotton's all-Obama-all-the-time campaign.
"My opponent [John Burkhalter] is the preferred candidate of President Obama."
— Tim Griffin, with a straight face, as part of his stump speech. Griffin is running for lieutenant governor, a state office of no importance.
"I am Obama's last choice for Arkansas Attorney General."
— Leslie Rutledge. We're pretty sure the president has never heard of her.
"After the Sandy Hook incident, Mr. Ross' knees buckled."
— Asa Hutchinson, accusing opponent Mike Ross of being insufficiently pro-gun in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter of 20 elementary school children.
"It's not an issue in my district. Folks there agree with my point of view on firearms and the personal use of firearms. I made it very clear that the timing certainly had a negative effect on some people. I meant exactly what I said. But sometimes tactfully it's better to refrain from saying some things at certain times."
— Rep. Nate Bell of Mena, currently running for re-election, on an infamous tweet that his opponent has made an issue of during the campaign. Bell added that he had counted 13 major media figures who made "the same basic statement ... without any repercussions whatsoever." The statement in question: During the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber in 2013, Bell tweeted: "I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine? #2A."
"Mike Ross is the biggest gun nut there is, right behind Asa Hutchinson."
— Green Party gubernatorial candidate Joshua Drake.
"These smartphones that children have these days are the devil."
— Attorney general candidate Leslie Rutledge, during a debate, on battling crimes in cyberspace.
"I'm a Christian, pro-life, gun-carrying conservative."
— Rutledge, explaining the totality of her qualifications for attorney general.
— U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, 74 times during his first debate with Sen. Mark Pryor and 80 times during the second debate.
"Congressman Hutchinson here, I can't figure out if he sounds more like a slick lawyer or a slick D.C. politician — he's been both. ... He was against the ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage before he was for it. You know, you've gotta make decisions, Asa, not based on what public polling tells you. But you gotta make decisions from the heart."
— Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross, on GOP opponent Asa Hutchinson's flip-flop on the minimum wage.
"It's Asa says, Asa does. He says one thing in Arkansas, he does another in Washington D.C. Let me tell you something, back home in Prescott, Arkansas, at the deer camp, we do what we say and we say what we do."
— Ross, on Hutchinson's pre-K flip-flops
"Economics is incredibly simple."
— State Rep. Richard Womack, running for re-election in Arkadelphia, explaining that all Arkansas has to do in order to enjoy prosperity is cut state income taxes. Womack, who's in the paint and construction business, noted that his theory comes from a three-day seminar with Art Laffer, the godfather of voodoo economics. Laffer served as intellectual inspiration, consultant and cheerleader for the tax-cutting experiment in Kansas, called a "red-state model," which was supposed to be something that could be applied in other states. The Laffer plan led to disastrous fiscal ruin in Kansas. Laffer predicted that the tax cuts would lead to booming growth in Kansas. He was horribly, catastrophically wrong. Incredibly simple, see?
"Rumors ... in social circles and cocktail party conversations."
— Stacy Hurst, Republican candidate for state representative, explaining why she initiated an investigation into the pre-K placement of Democratic opponent Clarke Tucker's 4-year-old child.
"Congressman Cotton wants to build the economy from the billionaires down. I want to build it from the middle class out."
— Mark Pryor, employing a zinger he used in both debates.
"When I think of middle class I think of most of Arkansas, up to $150,000 or $200,000."
— Pryor, asked to define the middle class, during his second debate with Cotton. Pressed for more specifics, Pryor again said "up to $200,000." He was referring to federal tax brackets and he meant a ceiling, not a median, but it was still a bone-headed thing to say, his only real unforced error in the debates. Only a tiny fraction of Americans make $200,000. Cotton pounced: "Sen. Pryor must be the one who's hanging around with out-of-state billionaires if he thinks $200,000 in Arkansas is the middle class."
"You may not believe it but I'm actually trying to help you. ... Here's the bottom line, you're finding a new career, you're not gonna run for state treasurer. OK? Unless you want to see this on the 7 o'clock news."
— Republican candidate for Treasurer Dennis Milligan, in an unsuccessful attempt to blackmail GOP primary opponent Rep. Duncan Baird out of the race with what turned out to be an innocuous video. Milligan was widely rumored to be wearing sunglasses during the encounter, which took place at a Krispy Kreme donut shop at Milligan's request (Baird declined to comment on what Milligan was wearing). Despite the revelation of Milligan's extortion attempt, Republican voters chose him as their preferred candidate.
"If you want to vote for a boy who voted for Barack Obama ... and thinks he's the greatest thing since sliced bread, vote for Tyler Pearson."
— Sen. Jason Rapert on his 28-year-old opponent. Later, when Pearson had the mic, Rapert audibly added, "Act like a man."
"I'm warm, dammit."
— Tom Cotton to Politico, on complaints that he was too cold or robotic on the campaign trail.
"He's a human. ...He's not a robot."
— State Sen. Michael Lamoureux on longtime friend Tom Cotton.
"He does have a great deal of empathy. It's just it's hard to see it."
— Another old friend of Tom Cotton's.
"He's had kind of a bad press for being unapproachable and rigid. I don't see that. Maybe he's a little on a different intellectual level. But I don't see he's unapproachable."
— An unidentified Cotton campaign staffer to a reporter from the Guardian at a church bazaar in Hattieville.
"You all know me."
— Mark Pryor, repeatedly during the debates.
"The worst of dirty politics. ... These ridiculous, manipulative attacks are an attempt by a secret group, with secret donors and a secret agenda, to manipulate Arkansas's Attorney General election."
— Leslie Rutledge, on the influence of outside groups using dark money in the Republican primary to attack her. Her opponent, she said, was "dishonest" not to disavow the attacks. That was last summer. This fall, when a shadowy conservative group swooped in with $1.8 million in dark money to make misleading attacks on her Democratic opponent, Nate Steel? Not a peep from Rutledge.
"If a family is truly in poverty, the minimum wage is not any answer."
— Millionaire banker and ninth-generation Arkansans J. French Hill, running for U.S. Congress in the 2nd District.
"Actually, birth control is not an abortion issue. That's a contraceptive issue. Totally different issue."
— State Sen. Jason Rapert, asked at a Vilonia Area Chamber forum whether given his opposition to abortion, he would do anything to increase access to contraception. In fact, that very same week, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found giving free birth control to teenagers dramatically reduced their abortion rate.
"The best thing that could happen" to the Senate would be if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "gets beat and Harry Reid gets replaced."
— Mark Pryor, being Mark Pryor.
"Millionaires can get food stamps."
— Tom Cotton, who's never been able to cite an example of a food stamp millionaire. Almost all food stamp beneficiaries make less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level, and the program offers a benefit averaging $1.50 per person per meal.
"We've all been in a situation where we stand in the grocery store at Walmart or at Brookshires and someone has steak in their basket yet they have a brand new iPhone and they're going out to a brand new SUV."
— Tom Cotton. Around 500,000 Arkansans — 17 percent of us — get food stamps. Nearly all have incomes below the poverty line, with a median income around $13,000. The program offers a benefit averaging $1.50 per person per meal.
"These are people who don't care if babies starve. They like their ideology more than human beings."
— Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate Mark Swaney, on people seeking to further slash funding for food stamps.
"I told President Clinton yesterday you've been running around taking credit for the balanced budget he provided this country. He got a pretty good kick out of it."
— Mike Ross, on Asa Hutchinson's repeated boasts that he "had the last balanced budget in our nation, when I left Congress." Of course, that was under President Clinton, who Hutchinson tried very hard to boot out of office.
"Several months ago Congressman Cotton went to a luxury resort in California to spend time with his billionaire donors. There's an audiotape where they brag about him for voting against the Farm Bill. It's a vote against Arkansas. You can hear the ovation on the tape — for voting against Arkansas. Folks, he's not listening to you. He's listening to them. That applause is still ringing in his ears and those dollar signs are still in his eyes. ... He has his billionaires, but I have you."
— Mark Pryor
"I've dodged real bullets in the streets of Baghdad, so a few metaphorical bullets on a political campaign don't really bother me that much."
— Tom Cotton
"President Obama has two years left in his last term. He is a lame duck. He is blocked by a hostile majority in the House. He has a Senate that at best is going to be evenly and bitterly divided. This is a six-year term for Senate you're running for. Would you please tell us what you hope to accomplish in those six years, most of which would not be under the administration of Barack Obama. Please don't mention Obama if you can give me an answer to that.
— Senate debate panelist Doug Thompson of Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. Cotton began his response by saying ... "Barack Obama."
"When you ask a question about negative ads, Congressman Cotton talks about Obama. When you ask a question about ISIS, Congressman Cotton talks about Obama, ask a question about the Farm Bill, he talks about Obama. You see a pattern? Clearly Congressman Cotton is running against one man. But I am running for 3 million Arkansans."
— Mark Pryor
"The best political talent of his generation that I have personally witnessed."
— Gov. Mike Beebe on political newcomer Clarke Tucker, running for state representative.
"I think many primaries in [Arkansas politics] boil down to one issue: goofy vs non- goofy. My money is on non-goofy to win the day."
— Rep. John Burris, tweeting during the Republican primaries. In fact, goofy held its own in the GOP primary this year, including in the case of know-nothing Tea Party fave Scott Flippo, who knocked Burris off in their battle for state Senate.
"I've passed about 70 pieces of legislation, almost all of it bipartisan. That's how I work. ... [Cotton's] approach is this 'my way or the highway,' this dead-end politics that leads to things like fiscal cliffs and shutting down the government. Leadership in Washington involves walking across the aisle. And Congressman, you don't have the reputation, the ability, or the desire to walk across the aisle to get things done in Washington."
— Mark Pryor
"People like Ross and Pryor, they water [the Democratic Party] down. They make people think that the only people who can ever get elected are these quasi-Republicans. That that's our only option in Arkansas because people are so right-wing. It's part of the Democrats' job to speak out against the nuts like Jason Rapert. So many Democrats sat on their hands when Jason Rapert was passing all this crazy legislation. ... When Nate Bell took away outreach money toward the private option, Democrats just rolled over. They just have no backbone. The only way to really have progressive politics whether you're a Democrat or a Green or whatever is you gotta be willing to stand up to the other politicians and explain to people. If the only people talking are the right-wing nuts and Democrats are sitting there with their mouth shut, people are going to believe the people that are talking."
— Green Party gubernatorial candidate Josh Drake
"Just because a liberal reporter calls themselves a fact checker doesn't make anything he says a fact."
— Tom Cotton, responding to a reporter asking him about factually inaccurate advertisements.
"You just heard Congressman Cotton basically admit that he hasn't passed anything since he's been in the House. Even though he was there for one month and he ran a poll on the Senate race. Didn't even know where the bathrooms were but nonetheless now he thinks he is entitled to be in the Senate."
— Mark Pryor
"The word that I hear everywhere I go is 'embarrassment' — that Jason Rapert is an embarrassment to our district and our state. ... All he cared about was getting in the spotlight and focusing on himself."
— Political newcomer Tyler Pearson, challenging state Sen. Jason Rapert.
"My wife and I have been married near 15 years with the best 3 children. She stays home. I love to hunt and fish as does my kids. I believe in the constitution as written."
— Marc Rosson, a Libertarian candidate for state representative in District 20.