Josh Mahony’s abrupt withdrawal from a race for U.S. Senate shortly after filing closed needs an explanation.

The Arkansas Republican Party continues to wallow in schadenfreude over the embarrassment to the Democratic Party, caught unawares by Mahony’s action and desperately searching for a way to field a candidate.

Republican incumbent Sen. Tom Cotton wasn’t going to be beaten by Mahony. But he’d have been forced to spend more of his campaign loot than he now will have to spend and he can put his dollars to work for other Republican candidates, down to Quorum Court if need be. (Yes, independent and Libertarian unknowns remain for Cotton to deal with.)

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Mahony said he quit for family health reasons. But he’s gone into seclusion and provided no other information. Personal health issues need not be plumbed in depth, but some information is necessary in this case for the simple reason that if Mahony himself has a health issue it could be a ground to substitute a candidate.

Few believe Mahony’s stated reason for withdrawal. The Republican Party news release after Mahony’s withdrawal (shown above) hints broadly that its promise to attack Mahony (and, significantly, perhaps others) with undisclosed oppo research could have been a factor. (PS: Do you really think the Democrat-Gazette reporter who detailed shortcomings in Mahony’s past campaign filings didn’t get help from Cotton-related sources, being that he’s one of the few people in media with whom Cotton will communicate?) Planted leaks are fair game, of course, the mother’s milk of journalism, but clearly there’s more where that came from.

Many are wondering if a Republican operative went to Mahony, conveniently after the close of filing, and laid out some of what more could be dumped on him and others if he didn’t drop out of the race.

Mahony should clear the air. So should the Republican Party. If it has evidence of more wrongdoing by Mahony and others it should release it or complain to the proper authorities. A quid pro quo — silence in return for crippling the Democratic Party’s Senate candidacy — wouldn’t be a particularly good look at this point in time.

‘WHERE THERE’S A WILL THERE’S A WEBB’: So said a bumper sticker directed at Doyle Webb, state GOP chair, over his questionable handling of a couple of estate matters.

Doyle Webb, the Republican Party chair, was crowing about the rule of law in an appearance yesterday with Democratic Party Chair Michael John Gray. A stickler for the law, with knowledge of illegal action, would report it, would he not?

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It is a bit much to read the D-G account of the Webb-Gray appearance and see Webb depicted as something of a legal expert, particularly in the context of the GOP’s attack of Josh Mahony for document irregularities. Remember when Webb got in ethical hot water for benefitting from a widow’s will he’d helped draw up? There was also the time his sister complained about his handling of their mother’s estate (I’ve mislaid the court document that details this, but will add when I find it). He’s also a homophobic liar. Also, not a fastidious landlord. Also, not always on top of tax payments. But, in the spirit of the Arkansas GOP and Donald Trump, a quid pro quo: I will agree not to talk about other information I have on Webb if he agrees to curb his sanctimony a bit.

Another legal FYI: Webb’s wife, Barbara, currently on the state payroll at workers comp thanks to patronage of the Republican governor (as is his sister-in-law Becky Keogh at Environmental Quality), is running for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Who better to put in a nonpartisan seat on the state’s highest court than someone who’s been at Doyle Webb’s side throughout his storied career as aggressive partisan, estate lawyer, landlord, taxpayer and defender of the rule of law against the likes of Josh Mahony.

But back to the need for Josh Mahony and the GOP to go the hangout route. That should include a comment on whether Republican operatives had contact with Mahony that contributed to his decision.

UPDATE: Tom Cotton’s go-to reporter at the Democrat-Gazette had more on Cotton’s oppo research on Mahony Sunday and the letter to Cotton supporters I’d heard about but been unable to obtain in which Cotton claimed credit for damaging Mahony. He revealed nothing more than the same lapses in filings (and a couple of fairly small past tax liens, one nine years old). He suggested there was more but no revelations. It didn’t answer the question if the Cotton camp directly coerced Mahony to quit the race AFTER filing, but bullying continues to be sure no Democrat enters the race. This is a mean bunch.

Again, the ethically challenged Doyle Webb (someone with a past record of tax nonpayment, too) is a spokesman for the Republican Party’s vow to keep sullied candidates off the ballot. And Trent Garner, who’s admitted a checkered past of his own. And, best of all, none other than Michael Lamoureux, who has more than a passing connection to the Medicaid-health care agency scandal (he has not been charged), not to mention a record rich with making money as a “consultant” and lawyer off people with special interests before the legislature.

Again as I said yesterday: If Republicans have evidence of wrongdoing by Mahony and any other Democrats, release it and let the chips fall. But spare me hypocritical sanctimony from the party of Jeremy Hutchinson, Micah Neal, Jon Woods, Jake Files, Michael Lamoureux, Trent Garner, Doyle Webb, Mark Darr, Ed Garner (another tax lien case when in legislature), tax felon Mickey Gates (who Trent Garner once said deserved a second chance) and  nursing home casg beneficiaries Michael Maggio and Rhonda Wood, who campaigned as Republicans, to name just a few.