Ex-FEMA Director Seeks Open House Seat in Arkansas

Witt, right, served as the director of FEMA under Clinton. (Manny Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images)
Witt, right, served as the director of FEMA under Clinton. (Manny Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images)
Posted November 5, 2013 at 3:54pm

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt, a Democrat, announced on Tuesday he is running in the open-seat contest in Arkansas’ 4th District.

“I’ve spent my adult life bringing people together at the toughest times of their lives and dealing with disasters,” Witt said in a conference call announcing his bid, according to the Associated Press. “Nowhere needs disaster relief more than Washington. No place needs to be brought together more than Congress.”

Witt, who served as FEMA director under former President Bill Clinton, is a top Democratic recruit for this seat, which is being vacated by first-term GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. Cotton announced earlier this year that he is leaving the seat to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor,

to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, arguably the most vulnerable Senate incumbent in 2014.

He is the second Democrat to announce a run in the contest; community college professor Janis Percefull is also waging a bid.

Arkansas’ 4th District is conservative, and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried it by a 26-point margin in 2012. But Democratic Rep. Mike Ross held the seat for more than a decade before retiring in 2012. Ross is running for governor in 2014.

. Recruiting strong candidates in districts such as this one has been a priority for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this cycle.

On the Republican side, state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman and businessman Tommy Moll have announced bids for the seat. Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr had joined the race in August but withdrew shortly thereafter.

Arkansas’ 4th District is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.