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Cotton opponents diverge on different paths: one mulls campaign suspension, the other prepares for PBS debate

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The 2020 General Election is fewer than seven weeks away. Sen. Tom Cotton (R) hopes to keep his seat, while two lesser-known candidates challenge him. One said he’s weighing whether to suspend his campaign.

Dan Whitfield (I) didn’t gather the required signatures to get on the ballot, and in a lawsuit looking for access, he claimed the COVID-19 pandemic limited his ability to get them. The lawsuit and a subsequent appeal were thrown out, and Whitfield said a current appeal will allow for oral arguments.

Still, Whitfield’s coming to terms with time no longer being on his side, as absentee ballots are being printed this week across the state.

“If we do win our hearing and we win ballot access, it’s still going to be very hard to beat Tom Cotton at this point,” Whitfield said.

In recent days, some on Twitter have accused Whitfield of dishonesty, saying he should no longer accept donations when it’s unlikely supporters can even vote for him. Whitfield called the accusations unfounded.

“We’ve been 100% transparent with our legal battle trying to get ballot access,” Whitfield said. “We’re not deceiving anybody. Anyone who donates knows what’s going on, it’s not like people don’t know what’s going on and they’re donating.”

Whitfield said he’s staying in the race because his supporters want him to, but his outlook on making the ballot and winning is bleak at this point.

“What I’m predicting is Tom Cotton will win and then he’ll run for president in 2024, and then I really hope he loses, but he might win there as well,” Whitfield said.

Should he decide to suspend the campaign, Whitfield said he’ll hold a “where we go from here meeting” to ask his supporters what to do with campaign donations. The results of this could include rolling the money over into another race, which could be for governor, lieutenant governor or challenging Sen. John Boozman (R). Donations could also be returned, Whitfield said.

“I’ll lay out all the different options, and I’ll let me donors make the choice,” Whitfield said,

Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr. (L) will likely be the only challenger on the ballot, and he said Whitfield should, “do the right thing,” and push voters toward his campaign.

“He has constituents that have been supporting his campaign, and he doesn’t want to give up on them,” Harrington said. “I respect him for that.”

Whitfield said he won’t endorse Harrington even if he suspends the campaign, saying he can’t support the Libertarian platform. Instead, he said he’ll host a Facebook live where Harrington can speak to the Independent’s supporters and pitch himself to earn their votes.

“I’ll give him my platform and let him use it, but that’s as much as I can do as a person for him,” Whitfield said.

Harrington said he’d gladly speak to Whitfield’s supporters, but he’s focused mostly on Cotton at this point. The incumbent plans to skip a scheduled PBS debate against Harrington next month, according to his campaign staff. A spokesperson added that former Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who Cotton unseated in 2014, set the precedent by not debating Green Party candidate Rebekah Kennedy in 2008.

“Tom Cotton is hard at work in the Senate confirming conservative judges and standing up to the radical left. He’s already enjoying spending time on the campaign trail when the Senate is in recess, and looks forward to making his case to Arkansans across our state before this November’s election.”

Statement from Sen. Tom Cotton’s campaign regarding his decision to skip the PBS debate

Harrington said he’ll use the platform to share his ideas with voters, adding that he hopes for an intellectual debate with the incumbent.

“The debate’s scheduled on my birthday, and I couldn’t have gotten a better gift,” Harrington said.

As November’s elections loom in the future, Harrington said he hopes to build a “coalition” of Libertarians, Independents, Democrats and traditional Republicans who hope to see a different face for Arkansas’ junior senator seat.

“Surely Americans can work together,” Harrington said. “This is my home country, my home culture, my home state. Hopefully, we can work together.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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