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WATCH LIVE: Arkansas Senate debate

Watch Arkansas’ candidates for U.S. Senate debate live on AETN, on Monday, October 13 at 3 p.m. EDT, featuring Senator Mark Pryor (D), Rep. Tom Cotton (R), Nathan LaFrance (L), and Mark Swaney (G). Livestream courtesy Arkansas Educational Television Network.

Four political candidates will face off Monday afternoon for the first head-to-head debate in Arkansas’ months-long, million dollar race for U.S. Senate.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and his Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton will meet on the University of Central Arkansas campus at 3 p.m. EDT on Monday, October 13, joined by Libertarian Nathan LaFrance and Green Party candidate Mark Swaney. The Arkansas Educational Television Network and AARP Arkansas co-sponsor. Steve Barnes, host of AETN’s “Arkansas Week,” moderates.

Democrats and Republicans alike see this race as critical in the fight to control the Senate, and have joined with outside groups to funnel millions of dollars toward both candidates. Although Sen. Pryor was labeled this cycle’s “most vulnerable incumbent” early on, he has remained competitive in part thanks to wider name recognition than Rep. Cotton, a first-term Congressman.

Health care has been central to the campaign so far, and voters can expect both men’s records on the issue to come under scrutiny at today’s event. Interestingly for a red-state Democrat, though, Pryor has been actively defending his vote for the Affordable Care Act – although, less surprisingly, he doesn’t call it “Obamacare.”

Agriculture spending is also a key issue in this rural state, and Pryor has attempted to play up his opponent’s vote against last year’s federal farm bill. Cotton has said his decision was based on the bill’s inclusion of funding for food stamps.

Domestic spending measures in general are likely to motivate many Arkansas voters, even beyond this senate race. As Jacob Kauffman of KUAR reported for the PBS NewsHour this week, a ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage – a measure neither Pryor nor Cotton supports – may drive voters to the polls.

AETN will also host a debate between Arkansas’ gubernatorial candidates on Thursday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. EDT. PBS NewsHour will be live streaming that event, featuring Asa Hutchinson (R), Mike Ross (D), Frank Gilbert (L), and Joshua Drake (G) as part of ourongoing online elections coverage.

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