Talk Business on KASU: Frm. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor talks new job and the 2020 election
Mark Pryor, former U.S. Senator and Arkansas Attorney General, has a new role at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a prestigious law firm that lobbies and provides other legal services across the U.S.
Pryor will join Brownstein as a shareholder in the government relations department in its Washington, D.C., office. He will play a leading role in furthering the firm’s State Attorneys General and Congressional Investigations groups as well as the federal government relations practice.
“As we continue to build out our preeminent focus areas, Mark’s experience as a U.S. senator and attorney general in Arkansas are a great addition to our expanding federal Government Relations and State Attorneys General practices,” said Rich Benenson, managing partner of the firm. “We best serve our clients by going beyond the traditional approach as state attorneys general continue to gain power in today’s dynamic regulatory environment.”
Pryor represented Arkansas as a Democratic U.S. senator for two terms. Most recently he served as a partner with Venable Law Firm in Washington, D.C., and was a co-chair of its Attorneys General Group and Congressional Investigations practice.
Pryor, who was defeated for re-election to the Senate in 2014, spoke with Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock about his new move and his take on the 2020 election.
TB&P: Congratulations on your new gig with Brownstein. Tell me a little bit about this.
Mark Pryor: Thank you very much, Roby. It’s always great to catch up with you. Yes, Brownstein is the best policy shop in Washington, D.C. So it’s a law firm, but it does have lobbying and other policy aspects to it. I look forward to really getting plugged in there with the state attorney general practice, working on congressional investigations and doing a lot of other things there with the firm. It’s a great firm, based in Denver, Colorado, and just really look forward to digging in there and having a successful legal career.
TB&P: Let’s talk about the 2020 election cycle. First of all, just your general observations. Are you surprised that it is as close as it is with all of these states, just at the tipping point going one way or the other for either Joe Biden or President Trump?
Pryor: I shouldn’t be surprised because over the last several election cycles, we’ve had lots of close elections and lots of cliffhangers, but yes, I am surprised. I guess I believed the polls I saw going into the election, that the race was fairly stable with Biden ahead consistently of President Trump, and the voters had their say.
The voters, that’s the only poll that counts as we always say. And you know, here, it’s coming down to kind of cliffhangers in four states, so it’s been fascinating to watch.
Of course, I’ve known Joe Biden for a long time. My dad served with Vice President Biden for 18 years in the Senate. And I served with him for six years in the Senate and then six years with him as vice president. And of course, I also knew Beau, his son Beau, who passed away a few years ago.
Beau actually called me as he was contemplating running for attorney general in Delaware, and he said, “All right, you’ve done this with a famous father. You were attorney general in your state. How does this work?” And we had great conversations about that over the years. He was an outstanding state attorney general, really, really great state AG. And of course, cancer took his life at an early age, but anyway, close to the Biden family and assuming that Joe Biden wins, I certainly wish him well. And even that’s true with President Trump. If President Trump wins somehow, wish him well as well.
I want a good president. I want a successful president here in this country. It’s just too important for the United States, our position in the world, and the responsibilities of that office for us not to, in some way at least, support our president.
TB&P: You know Joe Biden better than some people would, at least more than a man on the street in Arkansas would. Tell me something that I don’t know about him in terms of his public persona and his biography, but something that you feel like indicates what kind of person he will be as president.
Pryor: I would say that one thing that people need to know is that Joe Biden is a person of very deep, personal faith. There’s actually a small Catholic church right behind the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington. It’s just sitting there catty corner on the back corner of the Capitol Hill complex, sits right on the back corner. And Biden would go there a lot. Of course, he was famous for riding the train back and forth to Delaware every day. But many days he would go in and catch that early morning mass at whatever, 7:30, whatever time it was. And I know that it is something that he takes very seriously.
His personal relationship with God is something that’s very, very serious to him, and that doesn’t always come through because he doesn’t talk about it, he doesn’t brag about it, he doesn’t campaign on it and make it all about him, but it’s very deep.
And of course, he’s been through a lot of personal tragedies in his life. We’ve mentioned his son, Beau, who he lost, but he lost his wife and another child in a car wreck back in the 1970s. So anyway, he’s been through quite a bit and anyway, that faith has gotten him through that. So that’s something I always think of when I think of Joe Biden.
TB&P: Do you think that this country can heal its divisive wounds right now? I know you’re a consensus building kind of guy, and we just don’t see a lot of consensus building right now. There seems to be a scorched earth mentality from whoever has political power. This election looks like we’re going to be razor thin with whatever the margins are in the House, the Senate, and a new president, if indeed it is Biden. Can this country finally start functioning with some sort of moderation and some sort of consensus?
Pryor: The answer is, and I’m optimistic, the answer is yes, absolutely we can. It’s just a matter of political will of whether we want to do it enough. And I think that unfortunately in Washington, what you see is this partisan divide, this whole red versus blue thing. You know, you got to wear your color jersey, I got to wear my colored jersey, and we just can’t even agree on some of the basics here. That’s a mentality that leads to a dead end for our country.
I hope that what happens come January, I hope that there is this new sense in Washington that we should, and we need to build consensus, and we need to find common ground. Our troubles are too serious to not do this. I mean we could go through a long list of challenges the U.S has. If we can work together and solve these problems together, there’s nothing we can’t fix.
TB&P: You’ve had some time to reflect from the last election that you ran, which was six years ago. Is there any future in politics for Mark Pryor?
Pryor: I don’t think so. Listen, I loved being in Arkansas politics. I love serving and doing that. It really was truly a highlight in my life. I enjoyed it, but things are so partisan now. I just think they’re kind of silly, to be candid. I mean, I remember when I was in the state legislature, I did not know who a Democrat or who a Republican was. Even when I was attorney general, I’d go to these AG meetings, these national meetings with 49 other AGs in the room. I had no idea who was a D and who was an R. And the reason I didn’t know is because it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter.
Likewise, when I got to the Senate, my approach was “Look, I’m going to work with everybody.” It doesn’t matter to me who Mississippi sends or who Wyoming sends or California. I’m going to work with all 99 of my colleagues here and all my House colleagues, try to get good things done. And that was always my approach.
But you know, I’m a dinosaur in today’s world. Unfortunately, there’s just not very much of that left right now. And hopefully we’ll get back to it. But I don’t see me running for office in the future.