Three well-known Democrats said Wednesday that they would not run next year against Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford in what could be a key race for control of the U.S. House.
Former Democratic nominee Chad Causey, who lost to Crawford last year, said he would not seek election next year from Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District, which covers Jonesboro, Mountain Home, and much of eastern Arkansas.
After Causey’s announcement, two other potential candidates ruled out a run. Senate President Pro Tempore Paul Bookout and Senate Democratic Leader Robert Thompson both told The Associated Press that they would instead seek re-election to the Arkansas Legislature.
Before Crawford won the seat as part of a national Republican sweep that gave the GOP a majority in the House, Democrats had held the seat since Reconstruction.
The lines of the Arkansas 1st were redrawn this year to include several southeastern Arkansas counties, leaving Democrats hopeful that they could regain the seat.
Causey lost to Crawford by 15,000 votes last fall in a race to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, a Democrat. Berry retired due to health concerns and had brain surgery to remove a tumor earlier this year. Causey was Berry’s former chief of staff.
In an interview Wednesday, Causey said he declined to run because it was the right thing to do for his family. He said politics didn’t factor into his decision, although earlier polls suggested next year’s race would be close.
“To me, you have to make a decision whether or not you’re going to run for an office based if you feel that it’s the right thing for you and your family, and if you can make a difference,” he said.
Causey said the seat could be retaken by “the right type of Democrat.”
“The political winds will blow this way and that, as they have in every place,” he said. “Things change from time to time, but people have to make that decision on their own.”
Bookout, D-Jonesboro, had previously said he wasn’t actively considering a race for the House seat. On Wednesday, he ruled out a run and said he would instead seek re-election to the State Senate.
“My interest is in continuing to do my job,” he said. “Certainly, I know that they have great challenges ahead of them in Washington, but that’s not something that I have a desire or interest in at this time.”
Thompson, D-Paragould, also considered running for the seat last year, but said he was happy with his job in the State Senate and said a race for Congress would take time away from his three young children.
“I think I’ve done some good things for my district, and there’s some things I want to continue to work on,” Thompson said.
Still, there could be Democrats looking to run. L.J. Bryant said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that his supporters have asked him to consider the race. A heavily Democratic section of southeastern Arkansas was added to Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District this year. Bryant says that could help a Democratic nominee.
Prosecutor Scott Ellington and Jonesboro businessman Steve Rockwell say they’re also thinking about the race.
State Democratic spokesman Candace Martin said the seat was still promising for Democrats. She called Crawford, who won 52 percent of the vote in 2010, a “very weak candidate” who was vulnerable next year.
In a statement, Crawford spokesman Jonah Shumate said the average voter would be “glad the nasty attacks will be delayed for just a little longer.”