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Potential GOP candidates include Beth Anne Rankin, who lost by 17 points to Ross in 2010, and state Reps. Lane Jean and Matthew Shepherd.
One GOP candidate who will almost definitely get in the race: business consultant Tom Cotton, who also serves in the U.S. Army Reserve. He was eyeing a run before Ross’ announcement and is already building a campaign team.
“I think it’s a tossup district that leans Republican,” said Richard Bearden, a Little Rock-based Republican strategist and lobbyist. He noted that in redistricting the 4th district lost two Democratic-leaning counties while picking up Republican turf.
But Democrats insist the district is not a lost cause.
“I think a Democrat can win that district. It’s got to be the right Democrat, a conservative Democrat — but they’re out there,” Little Rock-based Democratic strategist Robert McLarty said. “There’s no doubt that it’s a little weaker. But it’s still, based on all performance numbers, a very good Democratic district.”
Ross said he would have been comfortably re-elected if he had run for another term, but he was tired of the deep dysfunction and divisive partisanship that pervades Congress.
“It’s getting more and more difficult to find common ground in Washington,” Ross said. “I’ve been here 12 years. It’s been a good run. It’s someone else’s turn.”