What’s God Got to Do With the Arkansas Senate Race?

PHOTO: Senator Mark Pryor is seen in this video grab made from a campaign ad posted to YouTube on July 7, 2014.YouTube/Mark Pryor
Senator Mark Pryor is seen in this video grab made from a campaign ad posted to YouTube on July 7, 2014.

God is front and center in the Arkansas Senate race this week as Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican Rep. Tom Cotton tangle over religion.

In a new ad titled “Heart,” Pryor takes on his opponent Cotton for recent comments he made questioning the Democratic senator’s faith.

"I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in His word. The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers, only God does," Pryor says directly to camera while holding a Bible. "This is who I am and what I believe."

The ad also features a graphic reading “No one should judge another’s heart,” and uses footage of Pryor from a television spot he ran last year in which he called the Bible his “compass” and “North Star.”

Pryor’s six figure statewide ad buy is a direct response to Cotton’s suggestion last week that Pryor thinks "faith is something that only happens at 11 on Sunday mornings.” Cotton’s comments came during an interview about the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case last week.

"It's another example of how Obamacare infringes on the liberties of all Arkansans. Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 on Sunday mornings,” Cotton said in an interview with KNWA. “That's when we worship but faith is what we live every single day. And the government shouldn't infringe on the rights of religious liberty. So I'm pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling but it's just another example of why Obamacare is bad for Arkansas."

READ: Americans For Prosperity Unleashes Another Attack On Mark Pryor

This isn’t the first time religion has come to the forefront of the Arkansas Senate Race. Last year, a spokesman for the NRSC criticized Pryor’s faith following the “North Star” ad.

“So is the Bible Mark Pryor’s compass, providing the ‘comfort and guidance to do what’s best for Arkansas?’ Or is it really not a good rule book for political issues and decisions made in the Senate? Guess it depends on which Mark Pryor that you ask,” NRSC Communications Director Brad Dayspring said in December.

The Cotton campaign quickly jumped to Pryor’s defense and denounced Dayspring’s criticism.

“That is an incredibly bizarre and offensive email from the NRSC’s press secretary. We should all agree that America is better off when all our public officials in both parties have the humility to seek guidance from God,” Cotton campaign spokesman David Ray told The Hill in December.

READ: Ad Money Pours Into Arkansas for Key Senate Race

Cotton released an ad of his own Tuesday, hitting Pryor and outside Democratic groups for saying the Arkansas Republican voted against disaster relief. The ad, titled "Recovery," features Andy Shock, the sheriff of Faulkner County, which was ravaged by tornadoes earlier this year.

"Shame on anyone who uses our tragedy for their own political gain. It’s just wrong,” Shock says in the ad. “Senator Pryor, start focusing on the real issues. Leave our community and our family out of the campaign.”

Pryor and Cotton will be back in Washington, D.C., for the majority of July until the next Congressional recess in August, but their six figure ad buys might make it seem like they never left. Additionally, the Pryor campaign is employing the help of Mark Pryor’s political parents - David Pryor, a former senator and governor of Arkansas, and Barbara Pryor, who will tour the state this week.

Negative Attacks Fly In Kentucky

In Kentucky, Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is also out with a new television ad, unveiling the beginning of what they call a series of Bluegrass State voters posing questions directly to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The ad, titled “Question from Don,” is Grimes’ first explicitly negative ad against McConnell and features retired coal miner Don Disney questioning McConnell.

“Senator, I’m a retired coal miner,” Disney says to the camera with Grimes seated next to him. “I want to know how you could’ve voted to raise my Medicare costs by $6,000. How are my wife and I supposed to afford that?”

Disney and Grimes—Kentucky’s secretary of state—wait for a long pause before she turns to Disney and says, “I don’t think he’s gonna answer that.”

This is the Grimes’ campaign’s third television ad this cycle and although they would not comment on exactly how much the buy is they say it is six figures.

The McConnell campaign fired back to today’s ad saying it’s not McConnell who is raising Medicare costs, but because of her tepid support of Obamacare she’s the one who backs the cutting.

"It says a lot about the candidacy of Alison Lundergan Grimes that she's a full four months away from the election and she already hit the panic button by resorting to the oldest, most cynical attack in the Obama playbook to scare Kentucky seniors,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. “The simple reality is that Senator McConnell has fought to protect Medicare, while Alison Lundergan Grimes and her political benefactors have raided it by $700 billion to pay for Obamacare."