The Democratic Party of Arkansas had selected Joshua Mahony to run against Sen. Tom Cotton in next year’s election. However, minutes after the filing deadline for candidates had passed, Cotton’s campaign released significant oppo research which caused Mahony to withdraw from the race within a matter of hours. In fact, Mahony didn’t even talk to the party before announcing on Twitter that he was withdrawing from the race. Monday the Democratic Party announced that, after a failed attempt to find a path forward, it was simply too late to field a replacement candidate:

“After exhaustive and careful examination with our legal counsel and our party leaders and without additional information from Mr. Mahony, the Democratic Party of Arkansas will not be able to field a candidate for United States Senate,” said Chairman Michael John Gray. “The narrow legal window to replace Mr. Mahony as our nominee would require evidence that has not been provided to us publicly or privately.”

Legally the Democratic Party was entitled to replace Mahony in case of “serious illness,” but to do that they would need further information to clarify the exact reason for his withdrawal. Publicly, Mahony’s reason for dropping out of the race, cited in his tweet and in a subsequent letter from his lawyer, was “family health concerns.” The party set up a meeting with Mahony to see if he could provide the information they would need to claim a “serious illness” exemption to the state filing deadline, but when the time for the meeting arrived, Mahony didn’t show up. At that point the party had no choice but to give up on fielding a candidate.

Of course, there’s a reason Mahony couldn’t claim a serious illness: There wasn’t one. In fact, the real reason he dropped out of the race was that Republicans had dug up some damaging information which they sat on until moments after the filing deadline had passed. Sen. Cotton’s campaign manager described the plan in a memo to Cotton’s supporters that was obtained by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette last week:

[Republican oppo-researchers] soon discovered “significant vulnerabilities in Mahony’s background” but sat on the information until Tuesday’s candidate filing deadline had passed, according to a memo Wednesday from departing Cotton campaign manager Brian Colas that was addressed to “Senator Cotton’s top supporters.”…

Minutes after filing ended, the state Republican Party announced that it would file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing Mahony of lying on campaign-related federal paperwork.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, meanwhile, questioned the challenger’s work history, tweeting that Mahony had been “unable to remember the last time he was employed.”

“Other damaging material that has not been made public” was in the hands of reporters, Colas wrote in the memo.

Here’s what the GOP bombardment looked like:

That link goes to a press release which quotes a story from the Democrat-Gazette in which Mahony couldn’t remember the last time he’d worked full time. That was at odds with his frequent claims that he was a “small business owner.” In fact, it appears Mahony didn’t own a small business despite claiming he did on official forms. The GOP called for an FEC investigation.

I don’t know what the “other damaging material” was that Cotton’s team gave to reporters but it only took two hours before Mahony to decide to get out of the race. It was a bold strategy and it clearly paid off for Sen. Cotton.