Arkansas Senate flip leaves vacancy on atop key panel

Arkansas voters who sent Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (D-Ark.) home on Tuesday created a vacancy atop a key subcommittee covering tech and communications issues.

Pyror is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

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Though he has not vigorously embraced the position as a launching pad for shaking up U.S. tech policy, his resounding defeat to Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) leaves an open spot for a top Democrat on the subcommittee. 

Even if Republicans take control of the Senate Tuesday night — as many analysts have predicted will happen — the position of ranking member on the post will remain an attractive post for a Democrat looking to take a commanding position on tech issues.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) seems to be next in line for the leadership role. Boxer has not been incredibly vocal on tech issues in the past, but the position could be attractive for a Californian who counts tech giants in Silicon Valley among her constituents.

In his leadership of the subcommittee, Pryor has avoided becoming a central voice on many of the most controversial issues, though he has repeatedly made efforts to be a voice for rural consumers.

In addition to his leadership of the Senate Commerce subcommittee, Pryor is also a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, a key panel for cybersecurity issues that could lose as many as four of its nine Democrats this year.   

In addition to Pryor, the panel is also losing Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to retirement. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) tight race is heading to a runoff next month, and Alaska Democrat Mark Begich is also facing an uphill challenge in his reelection race.