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story.lead_photo.caption In this Friday, July 26, 2019 file photo Josh Mahony (left), former candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, shakes hands with supporters, alongside Denise Garner, State Representative for Arkansas House District 84, during a press conference at the Fayetteville Town Center in Fayetteville. ( NWA Democrat-Gazette / Andy Shupe)

Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton will not be challenged by a Democratic candidate next year unless Josh Mahony comes forward with a fuller explanation as to why he dropped out of the race hours after the filing deadline, the leader of the Democratic Party of Arkansas said Monday.

Chairman Michael John Gray said at a news conference at party headquarters that the silence from Mahony and his representatives in the two weeks since he unexpectedly dropped out of the U.S. Senate race had thwarted the party's efforts to replace him.

In a tweet sent less than three hours after the candidate filing deadline on Nov. 12, Mahony — the only Democrat who filed in the race — said he was dropping out due to a "family health concern." He did not tell party officials about the decision before sharing it on social media.

Last week, Mahony's attorney clarified that the illness was to a member of Mahony's family, not to the candidate himself.

Arkansas law allows political parties to replace unopposed candidates who die or who cannot run due to "serious illness."

"With what we have, we do not see a path to put a Democratic candidate on the ballot," Gray said.

Mahony's attorney, Mark Henry, said in a phone call shortly after the news conference that neither he nor Mahony plan to offer more information to Democratic Party officials about the nature of the family illness. "I think the position's clear," Henry said.

Gray said there are people who have expressed interest in the Senate race should the party ultimately attempt to replace Mahony. The Republican Party of Arkansas has promised legal action if such an attempt is made.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full coverage.

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