Rep. Mike Ross (D)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: Aug. 2, 1961, Texarkana .
Education: U. of AR, B.A. 1987.
Family: Married (Holly); 2 children.
Elected office: Nevada County Quorum Court, 1983-85; AR Senate, 1990-2000.
Professional Career: Chief of staff, AR Lt. Gov. Winston Bryant, 1984-89; Owner, Holly's Health Mart, 1993-2007.
The congressman from the 4th District is Mike Ross, a Democrat who in 2000 defeated Republican Jay Dickey, the only House Republican outside California to be defeated that year. A fifth-generation Arkansan, Ross was born in Texarkana. He graduated from Hope High School and from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He got his start in local politics in 1982 as a travel aide to Bill Clinton during his successful bid for governor. While in college, Ross was on the staff of Lt. Gov. Winston Bryant and was executive director of the Arkansas Youth Suicide Prevention Commission. Later, Ross sold insurance and worked as a sales manager for a pharmaceutical company. He and his wife, who is a pharmacist, ran Holly’s Health Mart in rural Prescott until they sold the business in 2007. Ross was elected to the state Senate in 1990. When term limits forced him out a decade later, he ran for Congress. This was perhaps the only district in the nation where impeachment played a pivotal role in 2000. Dickey, representing Clinton’s boyhood homes, had voted for impeachment, angering the White House. Although Dickey often was a thorn to Republican leaders, Ross tied him to them and argued that “the real Jay Dickey” voted to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits to fund tax cuts for the rich. Dickey responded that Ross was getting his script from “his liberal masters in Washington.” Clinton had an impact. He helped bring in $300,000 for Ross at fundraisers, orchestrated endorsements from administration officials with Arkansas roots, and campaigned for Ross in Pine Bluff on the Sunday before the election. There were plenty of independent expenditures as well, by pharmaceutical groups that were against Ross and by labor unions that were against Dickey. Ross won, 51%-49%.
|Mike Ross (D)||203,178||(86%)||($1,722,151)|
|Joshua Drake (Green)||32,603||(14%)|
|Mike Ross (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (75%), 2004 (100%), 2002 (61%), 2000 (51%)
In the House, Ross joined the conservative Blue Dog Democrats and became a vocal proponent of prescription-drug legislation, often citing his experiences as a small-town pharmacist. He cultivates a “country boy” image, regularly shooting skeet from the back of his pickup truck. In 2002 he won approval of his proposal to remove Arkansas’s constitutional limit on interest rates, which local bankers and consumer groups agreed had made financing difficult. His action won wide support from political leaders in Arkansas, the only remaining state to mandate such terms. On the Energy and Commerce Committee, he said that he hoped to fix the “flawed Medicare prescription-drug bill” passed by the GOP in 2003. He also introduced legislation in 2008 to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and the outer continental shelf to oil drilling.
Although Ross voted for the use of force in Iraq in 2002, he later questioned whether the United States should finance reconstruction after the ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. He also said he regretted his 2002 vote. “Had I known that the information the president shared with me on Sept. 26, 2002, was not accurate, I would have never given him the authority to use force in Iraq. At worst, the president misled us, and at best, our intelligence failed us.”
In 2006, Ross was a lieutenant to Illinois Democrat Rahm Emanuel, who as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee helped orchestrate the party’s successful campaigns that year. Ross warned against moving the party to the left: “We didn’t defeat the Republicans with liberal Democrats.” In the 110th Congress (2007-08), he was one of three co-chairs of the Blue Dogs, the group of roughly 50 conservative Democrats in the House. “We’re in the middle, where the American people are,” said Ross, who handled communications and message for the faction.
Dickey decided to run again in 2002. Both candidates again raised substantial sums, but the Republican’s campaign stumbled from the start. Dickey refused, as he had in the past, to accept funds from political action committees, but the Republicans’ campaign committee got him to back down. He constantly reminded voters that he had delivered federal money to the district from his Appropriations Committee seat and had secured a pledge from GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert that he would get back his seat on the committee. Ross won by a convincing 61%-39% margin. That seems to have made the 4th a safe Democratic district again, after more than a decade of fierce partisan contests. Ross had no Republican opposition in 2004, and Dickey became a Washington lobbyist. Ross has been re-elected easily since.