Mark Pryor

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Mark Pryor
Mark Pryor, Official Portrait, 112th Congress (2011) 1.jpg
United States Senator
from Arkansas
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byTim Hutchinson
Succeeded byTom Cotton
53rd Attorney General of Arkansas
In office
January 12, 1999 – January 3, 2003
GovernorMike Huckabee
Preceded byWinston Bryant
Succeeded byMike Beebe
Member of the
Arkansas House of Representatives
In office
January 1991 – January 1995
Personal details
Mark Lunsford Pryor

(1963-01-10) January 10, 1963 (age 57)
Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jill Pryor (Divorced)
Joi Pryor
EducationUniversity of Arkansas (BA, JD)
WebsiteSenate website

Mark Lunsford Pryor (born January 10, 1963) is an American attorney and politician who served as a United States Senator from Arkansas from 2003 to 2015. He is a member of the Democratic party.[1] Prior to becoming senator, he was Attorney General of Arkansas from 1999 to 2003.

Born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Pryor is the son of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator David Pryor. He received his bachelor's degree and law degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He worked in private practice for several years until being elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1990. He was elected the state Attorney General in 1998. Pryor announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2001, running for the same Senate seat his father had held from 1979 to 1997. He was elected with 54% of the vote, defeating Republican incumbent Tim Hutchinson.

He was reelected with no Republican opposition in 2008. During the 112th Congress he served as the chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance. Pryor ran for reelection in 2014, but was defeated by Republican Tom Cotton.[2]

Early life, education, and early political career[edit]

Pryor was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to the former state First Lady Barbara Jean (Lunsford) and former Governor and U.S. Senator David Hampton Pryor. He attended Little Rock Central High School and Walt Whitman High School in Maryland, graduating in 1981.[3][4] He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and went on to receive his Juris Doctor from the university's law school in 1988. During college, he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Prior to entering politics, Pryor worked as a private practice attorney. He was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1991 to 1995. In 1994, he ran for Arkansas Attorney General, challenging incumbent Winston Bryant in the Democratic primary. Pryor lost 58%-42%.[5] In 1998, he ran for the same position again and became the Democratic Party nominee. He defeated Republican nominee Betty Dicky, the Redfield City Attorney, 59%-41%. He won all but four counties in the state: Benton, Boone, Marion, and Baxter.[6] He was also delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

U.S. Senate[edit]

Pryor was recognized for providing a high level of constituent service, and he helped to secure millions of dollars in highway funds for the state. Pryor was also a committed advocate of the state’s military families; he guided the SACRIFICE Act to passage, thus providing families of those injured in combat more timely and reliable medical care. [7]



In late 2001, Pryor announced his candidacy for the Senate seat held by Tim Hutchinson, who six years earlier had become the first Arkansas Republican to serve in that body since Reconstruction. The seat had been held by his father David Pryor (also a former Arkansas governor), who actively campaigned for his son. Pryor defeated Hutchinson 54% to 46% and was the only Democratic candidate for the Senate to defeat a Republican incumbent in that election cycle.


Pryor won reelection in 2008 without a Republican opponent. There had been speculation that former Governor Mike Huckabee would run against Pryor if his presidential bid was unsuccessful, but on March 8, Huckabee said he would not contest the race.[8] The only Republican to express interest in the race, health care executive Tom Formicola, decided not to run.[9] Pryor's only announced opponent was Green Party candidate Rebekah Kennedy, whom he defeated 80% to 20%.


Pryor ran for reelection to a third term in 2014, against Republican U.S. House Rep. Tom Cotton.

In March 2014, during an MSNBC news segment regarding the Senate race, Pryor said that Cotton gave off a "sense of entitlement" to a seat in the Senate due to his service in the military.[10] After receiving much criticism for the remark, Pryor later said he was not attacking Cotton’s military service, but his perceived lack of accomplishments in the House: "But the point remains that he's been in the House now for a little over a year, he hasn't passed any legislation. There's not one thing he's done for Arkansas."[11] called two ads aired by Pryor's 2014 Senate campaign misleading in their criticisms of Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, supported by his opponent.[12]

Pryor lost to Cotton by a 57% to 39% margin.


Somewhat atypically, he was, for 19 days in January 2009, the Baby of the Senate, despite not having previously held that distinction during his first term, because of the defeat of the younger John E. Sununu. Pryor was the oldest Senator (at age 45) to become "Baby of the Senate."[citation needed]

In June 2007, before the annual Arkansas Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson dinner, Pryor announced his endorsement of his colleague Sen. Hillary Clinton for the President of the United States.[13]

In 2013, Pryor voted with President Obama 90% of the time.[14]

Since 2009, Pryor's top three donors have been lawyers ($1,131,431), leadership PACs ($429,149), and lobbyists ($323,769).[15]

Fiscal policy[edit]

On February 13, 2009, Pryor voted to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[16]

On April 16, 2012, Pryor was the only Democratic Senator to vote against the "Buffett Rule," which was defeated 51 voting in favor to 45 voting against cloture of the Filibuster.[17][18]

In April 2014, the United States Senate debated the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737; 113th Congress). The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage for employees to $10.10 per hour over the course of a two-year period.[19] The bill was strongly supported by President Barack Obama and many of the Democratic Senators, but strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate and House.[20][21][22] Pryor opposed the bill.[21] Pryor was up for election in 2014 and was at that time considered "the Senate's most vulnerable incumbent."[23]

Estate tax[edit]

In June 2006, Pryor voted against repeal of the federal estate tax.[24] In 2013, Pryor and Senator John Boozman (R-AR) were credited by Arkansas Farm Bureau president Randy Veach for their opposition to President Obama's plan to raise the estate tax. Pryor co-sponsored a bill that would implement a one-year extension on current estate tax rates.[25][26] The bill did not pass. In 2008 Pryor voted against expanding the pool of people exempt from the estate tax.[27]

Health care[edit]

Pryor voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (usually called "Obamacare") in December 2009,[28] and later voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[29]

Pryor has said that he would vote for Obamacare again.[30][31]

Foreign policy[edit]

Pryor opposes bringing Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States for trial.[32]

On September 28, 2006, Pryor was one of 12 Senate Democrats who voted to adopt S.3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006.[33] He voted against the flag burning amendment in June 2006.

On March 15, 2007, Pryor was one of two Democratic Senators to vote against a resolution aimed at withdrawing most American combat troops from Iraq in 2008. The vote, requiring 60 votes to pass, was 50 to 48 against.[34]

Social policy[edit]

In 2003, Pryor voted for a federal ban on partial-birth abortion.[35] He has voted in favor of the expansion of embryonic stem cell research. He voted against restricting UN funding for population control policies, prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion, and barring Health and Human Services grants to organizations that perform abortions.[36]

On December 18, 2010, Pryor voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.[37][38]

Gun policy[edit]

In 2004, Pryor voted to extend the "Assault Weapons Ban".[39][40]

In 2013, Pryor voted against a measure that would have required background checks for all firearms purchases.[41]

In March 2013, Pryor cosponsored a bill that would flag individuals attempting to buy guns who have used an insanity defense, were ruled dangerous by a court, or had been committed by a court to mental health treatment. It did not address the gun show loophole. The bill has not been passed into law.[42][43]

Judicial nominees[edit]

On May 23, 2005, Pryor was one of the fourteen senators who forged a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster. This effectively ended any threat of a Democratic filibuster (and thus also avoided the Republican leadership's threatened implementation of the so-called nuclear option). Under the agreement, the Democrats would exercise the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance." The threat of a filibuster removed, Republicans were able to force cloture on the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor-no close relation), who subsequently passed a vote by the full Republican-controlled Senate.[44] He did, however, vote against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.[45]

On November 21, 2013, Pryor was one of only three Democratic senators to dissent from Harry Reid's leadership to vote against the nuclear option which switched the Senate away from operating on a supermajority basis, to requiring only a simple majority for certain decisions. In his speech on the Senate floor that day, he said that the Senate was, "a place for debate...where Members...can reach across the aisle and find solutions...Part of that is to allow the minority to speak, even if it is a minority of one. We need to protect that right, and we need to protect every Senator's right to debate and to amend legislation." He said that the Senate was, in a sense, "the only place where the minority is guaranteed a voice. They sometimes get outvoted, but they are guaranteed at least to be heard," and said that he was, "disappointed in the use of the nuclear option. I opposed that. I think it could do permanent damage to this institution and could have some very negative ramifications for our country and for the American people.".[46]

Legislation sponsored[edit]

Pryor introduced the Drought Information Act of 2013 (S. 376; 113th Congress) on February 25, 2013.[47] The bill that would authorize funding for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) through 2018.[48] The NIDIS is "charged with providing timely information to prevent drought and extreme weather damage."[48] The bill passed the United States Senate on February 3, 2014.

Pryor introduced the bill "To repeal section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013" on January 27, 2014.[49] The bill would repeal the provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that would reduce the amount of the annual cost of living increase to non-disabled military veterans under age 62.[50] The Congressional Budget Office estimated that enacting Pryor's bill would stop the reduction of $6.813 billion from the amount paid to veterans annually.[51]

Committee assignments[edit]

Post-Senate career[edit]

In March 2015, Pryor became a partner at the law and lobbying firm, Venable.[52]

Personal life[edit]

Pryor lives in Little Rock and has a son and a daughter, Adams and Porter. He is married to Joi Pryor, his high school sweetheart. They are members of the First Assembly of God in North Little Rock.

In 1996, Pryor was diagnosed with clear-cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in his left leg.[53] His treatment and rehabilitation took 15 months, and he was told by one doctor that he might have to have his leg amputated, but it was discovered early enough and the cancer was successfully removed.[54]

Electoral history[edit]

U.S. Senator[edit]


United States Senate election in Arkansas, 2014[55]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Tom Cotton 478,819 56.50% N/A
Democratic Mark Pryor (incumbent) 334,174 39.43% -40.10%
Libertarian Nathan LaFrance 17,210 2.03% N/A
Green Mark Swaney 16,797 1.98% -18.49%
n/a Write-ins 505 0.06% N/A
Total votes '847,505' '100.0%' N/A
Republican gain from Democratic


United States Senate election in Arkansas, 2008[56]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Pryor (incumbent) 804,678 79.53
Green Rebekah Kennedy 207,076 20.47
Total votes 1,011,754 100.00
Invalid or blank votes 75,586 n/a
Democratic hold


Arkansas U.S. Senate Election 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Mark Pryor 433,306 53.9
Republican Tim Hutchinson (Incumbent) 370,653 46.1


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  2. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (November 4, 2014). "Mark Pryor Loss Makes US Senate History". Smart Politics.
  3. ^ "Famous Central Graduates- Mark Pryor". Archived from the original on March 23, 2014.
  4. ^ "Class of '81".
  5. ^ "Our Campaigns - AR Attorney General - D Primary Race - May 24, 1994".
  6. ^ "Our Campaigns - AR Attorney General Race - Nov 03, 1998".
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  8. ^ [1][dead link]
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  10. ^ Lauer, Claudia (March 6, 2014). "Pryor says Cotton exudes vet 'entitlement,' riling GOP". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  11. ^ Joseph, Cameron (April 26, 2014). "Pryor explains 'sense of entitlement' comments". The Hill. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  12. ^ Robertson, Lori (February 25, 2014). "Fact check: Old Medicare claims in Ark. Senate race". USA Today. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  13. ^ "Hillary for America". Archived from the original on November 27, 2008.
  14. ^ "Senate Democrats Backed Obama On Overwhelming Number of 2013 Votes, CQ Roll Call Vote Studies Show". At the Races. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
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  21. ^ a b Bolton, Alexander (April 8, 2014). "Reid punts on minimum-wage hike". The Hill. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
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  24. ^ "Democrats halt move to kill off death tax". Washington Times. June 8, 2006. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  25. ^ "Pryor, Boozman bring common sense to debate over estate taxes". Archived from the original on April 13, 2014.
  26. ^ "Democratic senators take issue with the estate tax". Washington Post. December 11, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  27. ^ "Bill Summary & Status - 110th Congress (2007 - 2008) - S.AMDT.4191 - THOMAS (Library of Congress)". Archived from the original on October 4, 2008.
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  29. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
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  31. ^ Ashe Schow. "Suddenly, Mark Pryor won't say whether he would vote for Obamacare again". Washington Examiner.
  32. ^ "Lincoln, Pryor back bid to block funding to hold terror suspects in U.S. | Arkansas News". Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  33. ^ "U.S. Senate". Retrieved June 1, 2015.
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  38. ^ "Senate Vote 281 - Repeals 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 27, 2015.
  39. ^ "Gun laws big issue in race". Arkansas Online.
  40. ^ "U.S. Senate: Roll Call Vote". January 27, 2015.
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  42. ^ "Graham introduces background check bill with NRA backing". CNN. March 6, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Winston Bryant
Attorney General of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Mike Beebe
Party political offices
Preceded by
Winston Bryant
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Arkansas
(Class 2)

2002, 2008, 2014
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Tim Hutchinson
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Arkansas
Served alongside: Blanche Lincoln, John Boozman
Succeeded by
Tom Cotton
Honorary titles
Preceded by
John Sununu
Youngest Member of the United States Senate
Succeeded by
Michael Bennet