Tom Cotton ContactBack to top
Address: 415 CHOB, DC 20515
Phone: (479) 754-2120
Address: 215 West Main Street, Clarksville AR 72830-3009
Phone: (870) 881-0631
Fax: (870) 881-0683
Address: 101 North Washington Street, El Dorado AR 71730-5669
Phone: (501) 520-5892
Fax: (501) 520-5892
Address: 100 Reserve Street, Hot Springs AR 71901-4144
Phone: (870) 536-3376
Fax: (870) 536-4055
Address: 100 East 8th Avenue, Pine Bluff AR 71601-5070
Tom Cotton StaffBack to top
Tom Cotton CommitteesBack to top
Tom Cotton BiographyBack to top
- Elected: 2012, 1st term.
- District: Arkansas 4
- Born: May. 13, 1977,
Harvard University, B.A., 1999; J.D., 2002
- Professional Career:
Management consultant, McKinsey & Co., 2010-11; practicing lawyer, 2003-04
- Military Career:
- Political Career:
- Ethnicity: White/Caucasian
- Family: Single
Tom Cotton snagged Arkansas’ last Democratic House district for the Republicans in 2012, claiming the seat of retiring Rep. Mike Ross. The district’s voters historically have sent Democrats to Congress, and Cotton’s victory was evidence of the state’s rightward shift. After just seven months in the House, the 36-year-old Cotton announced on Aug. 6, 2013 that he would run against Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in 2014.
A sixth-generation Arkansan, Cotton was born in Russellville and grew up on his family’s cattle farm in Dardanelle. After graduating from high school, he studied government as an undergraduate at Harvard and went on to earn a degree from its law school in 2002. Friends remember him as a contrarian and a deep admirer of Winston Churchill. "In this day and age, irony and snark rule, but he's a bit of a throwback and a traditionalist," said Ken Lee, an old friend from Harvard. "He has a strong sense of duty and believes that America can be a force of good for the world."
Cotton then worked as a judicial clerk for Judge Jerry Erwin Smith of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and later as a lawyer at two law firms. He enlisted in the Army in December 2004, turning down suggestions to join the Judge Advocate General Corps. He was deployed to Baghdad in May 2006 as a platoon leader for the 101st Airborne Division, leading daily patrols through the city. In March 2007, he joined the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, the regiment that guards the Tomb of the Unknowns. He went to Afghanistan in 2008 as an operations officer for a provincial reconstruction team. In an interview with National Journal, he called his time in the military a “great training ground for politics” because it taught him professionalism. He also said: "I tell 18-to-22-year-olds all the time that there's a lot of things you can do in your life that'll be a mistake, but one thing that will never be a mistake is joining your country's military."
During his military career, he gained some notoriety among conservative bloggers for a letter he wrote to The New York Times in 2006. After the paper published an article about the George W. Bush administration’s program to trace financial transactions of people suspected of ties to terrorist organizations, Cotton wrote to the editors: “Next time I hear that familiar explosion—or next time I feel it—I will wonder whether we could have stopped that bomb had you not instructed terrorists how to evade our financial surveillance. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.”
When Cotton finished his military service, he considered running against Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas’ 2010 race but decided against it. Instead, he went to work in Washington as a management consultant for McKinsey & Co.
When Ross announced in June 2011 that he would not seek reelection, the open seat was viewed as a likely Republican pick-up. Cotton’s main competition in the May primary was Beth Anne Rankin, a former aide to Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee and an early favorite because she had challenged Ross in 2010. But Cotton quickly caught the attention of national groups, earning endorsements from the anti-tax Club for Growth and the National Republican Congressional Committee as well as from many of his state’s major newspapers and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. He won the GOP contest with 58% of the vote to Rankin’s 37%. In the fall, Cotton faced Democratic state Sen. Gene Jeffress. He vastly out-fundraised Jeffress en route to a general election victory.
In the House, Cotton has been strongly conservative, especially on economic issues. He was the only House lawmaker from Arkansas in 2013 to vote for the failed Republican Study Committee budget that sharply slashed federal spending. He also voted against the farm bill, which he said had become a "food-stamp bill," although he supported a later version that didn't contain food-stamp programs.
He maintained a sharp right-leaning rhetorical edge on all fronts, and was particularly hawkish in his criticisms of President Obama. After the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, he blasted the Obama administration for “failing in its mission to stop terrorism before it reaches its targets in the United States.” And after Obama released five Taliban leaders from Cuba's Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for imprisoned Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Cotton in June 2014 won passage of an amendment to defense spending bill imposing a one-year moratorium on any detainee transfers. He said the move was necessary so Congress could investigate “the president’s lawless release of the Taliban Five.”
But Cotton didn't spare his party's anti-interventionist wing. He called for creating a no-fly zone in Syria as well as arming rebel fighters there. When Obama sought support for military intervention in the country, he and another veteran, Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, took the unususal step of writing an op-ed in The Washington Post urging fellow Republicans to support the president. And when libertarian Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan offered an amendment to greatly restrain the National Security Agency's surveillance efforts, Cotton forcefully denounced it on the House floor: "Do not take away this tool from our warriors on the front lines."
With his military background and conservative credentials, Cotton was immediately regarded as the party's best hope to unseat Pryor, the son of a popular former governor and senator whose strongly centrist voting record made it difficult to depict him as a liberal Obama ally. Pryor and national Democrats went on the attack against Cotton, pointing to his initial farm bill vote as well as his votes cast against the Violence Against Women Act and against disaster relief. (Cotton supported disaster relief as long as spending cuts were made to other programs to pay for it.)
Polls showed an extremely tight race for months, and some Republicans reportedly wondered in private whether Cotton's refusal to moderate his views was preventing him from pulling away. Cotton also was criticized for being too stiff on the campaign trail, something he sought to shore up by taking reporters through his family's cattle farm and running ads depicting his warmer side.
He repeatedly went after Pryor for his support of the Affordable Care Act, contending in one October 2013 spot that the senator "voted for special subsidies" for lawmakers and staff to protect them from the law. The fact-checking website PolitFact labeled the claim "false," saying it relied on an inaccurate interpretation of one of the law's provisions. He also outraged Pryor when he said his opponent believed that "faith is something that only happens at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings." Cotton's campaign later called Pryor "a man of faith" but didn't back down from his initial statement.