Republican candidate Rep. Tom Cotton bested incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in the Arkansas Senate race on Tuesday, securing a victory in one of the most competitive and closely watched battles of the 2014 midterms.
The seat is a key GOP pickup in its effort to gain control of the senate in the 2014 midterms.
Cotton, a freshman congressman and combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was favored in the majority of polls for several weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election.
Pryor is the last remaining Democrat in the Arkansas congressional delegation. He won 79 percent of the vote in his last election in 2008, running unopposed.
A single-party Democratic state for over a century, Arkansas has been shifting steadily toward the GOP for the past decade.
Pryor’s father, David Pryor, served as governor of Arkansas from 1975 to 1979, and senator from 1979 to 1997. Pryor won his father’s former Senate seat in 2003.
The Democratic incumbent, who emphasized local issues during the race, was dragged down by President Barack Obama’s deep unpopularity in the state.
Former President Bill Clinton, a former Arkansas governor, trekked to the state to join Pryor on the campaign trail in October, but the effort failed to save the Democrat’s seat.
The race was marked by Pryor’s efforts to distance himself from Obama and national Democrats, scrutiny of both candidates’ college records, and Pryor’s perceived criticism of Cotton’s military career.
Cotton, 37, is expecting his first child with his wife Anna in April.