With little advance fanfare, former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge distributed a release this morning saying that he will make a Democratic race for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican John Boozman.
Eldridge, who’s left footprints in his life in Arkansas from Lonoke County, where he grew up, to Arkadelphia where he headed a bank, to Fort Smith and Fayetteville, where he’d recently been U.S. attorney, lacks one significant feature on his resume — any previous elected office.
I believe you’ll find that Eldridge turns this to an advantage in a year in which outsiders draw great favor and dissatisfaction with Washington gridlock is high. Eldridge can be expected to strike a tone of someone capable of reaching across the aisle. He won’t attack John Boozman, who has relatively low name recognition despite 15 years in office but enjoys a reputation among those who do know him as quiet and kind. But he will seek to illuminate a lack of solid achievements by Boozman.
Can this win an election for a Democrat in overwhelmingly Republican Arkansas? He doesn’t indicate yet how he’ll handle the usual Republican 4-G liturgy against Democrats — God, guns, gays and gynecology.
Eldridge will look to the Mike Beebe model and hope that there remains enough “Beebe independents” — people who can vote Democratic even if they don’t necessarily identify themselves that way — to give him the margin of victory. Even sadsack Democrats can usually muster 40 percent of the vote in a statewide race, particularly in an election year that will not feature Barack Obama on the ballot. I suspect the name Obama will still pass many a Republican lip.
If Eldridge starts with 40 percent, he needs to get another 10 percent from Beebe’s 60-plus favorable rating.
Eldridge burns for elective service. I suspect he can raise the money for a decently funded campaign, given his vigor, connections and a family on his wife’s side with a banking fortune.
To survive, Democrats have to run. And it’s better to run with a young, fresh, bright, well-funded newcomer than the polar opposite. He’s assured me he’s running to win. He rejects — as I do — the notion that a young comer could run with an eye to the future. Many people get second chances, but it’s foolish to waste time, energy and money on a very hazy future. The only future is now.
He’s the first Democrat to announce. I’d guess he’d be the last. The primary is in March, with filing closing Nov. 9.
Told you so. Repubs aren’t through running against President Obama. The National Republican Senatorial Committee welcomed Eldridge this way:
“Conner Eldridge might want to remove the line about working for President Obama on his resume, because his ties to the unpopular President make him unelectable in Arkansas. Unlike Conner Eldridge, John Boozman has spent his life caring for Arkansas families and fighting Obama’s reckless policies that have put our country at risk.” – NRSC Communications Director Andrea Bozek
And mroe guilt-by-association from the party of Dick Cheney, G.W. Bush, Tom Cotton and other disasters:
Statement from the Republican Party of Arkansas
In 2010, President Obama, who boasts a 38% approval rating in Arkansas, said, “I am pleased to nominate Conner Eldridge to serve the people of Arkansas as a United States Attorney.” Following his appointment, Eldridge served under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.
Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb made the following statement:
“Arkansans made it clear over the past three election cycles that the destructive, liberal policies of Barack Obama are not welcome here. Conner Eldridge has likened himself to Obama, which is not surprising given Obama’s appointing him US Attorney
Just noticed an e-mail soliciting support. It included a family photo.
Here’s Eldridge’s news release:
Former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge announced today he is running for the U.S. Senate in 2016. Eldridge said “Washington is broken. I’m running for the Senate because I’m committed to doing everything I can to fix it for Arkansas and for our country.”
“Arkansans are dealing with real problems involving our jobs, our safety, our schools, and the strength of our communities. People in Washington aren’t bringing solutions to these problems and aren’t getting things done. Arkansas needs leaders who will stand up to anyone in Washington, from either political party, and do what’s right for Arkansas and for our country.”
Eldridge pledged to work with anyone interested in bipartisan, common-sense efforts to deal with the challenges we face, saying “The work of a prosecutor in fighting crime isn’t a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. We need to take the same approach to creating a strong Arkansas economy, cutting government spending, waste and needless regulation, and making sure that everyone in Arkansas has an opportunity to succeed.”
Eldridge served nearly five years as U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Arkansas before resigning on August 21. During his tenure, Eldridge was an aggressive prosecutor of child pornographers, drug traffickers, and fraudsters.
“It was an incredible honor to serve as U.S. Attorney and I’ll be forever grateful to the dedicated people in that office and in law enforcement throughout Arkansas,” Eldridge said. “Today I’m starting the next chapter in my working life, and I couldn’t be happier that this decision will allow me to continue to serve the state I love and all of us who are fortunate to call Arkansas home.”
Before becoming U.S. Attorney, Eldridge worked with businesses across southwestern, central, and other parts of Arkansas while serving in several roles with Summit Bank and Summit Bancorp Inc. in Arkadelphia. Eldridge held the positions of Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, President of the Arkadelphia region, and Chief Executive Officer during his time at Summit Bank.
“My years in business and as a prosecutor give me a unique perspective on what we have to do to create better paying jobs in Arkansas, to make education a top priority and to reduce the threats of violence and abuse that are disrupting our communities,” he said.
“I was born and raised in Arkansas and Mary Elizabeth and I are raising our three boys here. We care deeply about the future of our state and I want the chance to make Washington work for us, not always against us.”
Eldridge said that since leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office, he has visited with hundreds of Arkansans and received broad encouragement to run. “I would only run this race if I thought I could win,” Eldridge said. “I believe I can make a real difference for Arkansas in the U.S. Senate.”
Eldridge was born in Fayetteville in 1977. After spending the first 12 years of his life in Augusta, his family moved to Lonoke where he worked on the family farm and graduated from high school. During that time, he also continued to spend time visiting his family in Augusta. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Davidson College and gained his Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas.
Eldridge previously worked for U.S. Rep. Marion Berry and U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln during 1998 and from 1999-2000. Eldridge’s service focused on Agriculture issues, including legislation before the House and Senate Agriculture committees. During law school, he worked as a law clerk to several law firms in Arkansas and the Washington Country Prosecutor’s office. Following law school, he served as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele of the Eastern District of Arkansas from 2003-2004.
Eldridge and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, moved from Arkadelphia to Fort Smith and, later, to Fayetteville after he became U.S. Attorney. They are raising three young boys: Will, 8; Henry, 4; and Tull, 3.