By RACHEL PARKER DICKERSON

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

North Little Rock businessman Tom Cox announced Friday he will run in the Republican primary election in an attempt to secure the nomination to run for Senate against U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Cox announced his intentions at a meeting of the Arkansas Conservative Forum at Ryan's on Old Morrilton Highway.

Cox's first foray into politics was organizing the Arkansas Tea Party, which was held April 15 in Little Rock at the State Capitol. It was one of many such events held to protest the economic stimulus bill passed by Congress. The historic Boston Tea Party was the basis for the events. Cox shared with the forum how he came to organize the Arkansas Tea Party.

Cox runs a boat manufacturing business that his father established. They worked together for many years before his father died. He said he has always heard that the recreation industry is the first to go into a recession and the first to come out. He said his business began feeling the impact of the recession as early as March 2007.

After two years of "horrible business," Cox was looking for a tea party to attend. He searched on the Internet and could not find one in Little Rock. He decided to establish one himself.

He said interested individuals attended the first organizational meeting on April 1.

The beauty of it, he said, was, "I guess we had 30 or 40 people at the first meeting ... and every piece of the puzzle was at that table."

The tea party at Little Rock had a large turnout and good speakers, he said.

"The stimulus bill was really what probably pushed me over the edge to do this," he said.

Cox said he had much positive feedback from Democrats and individuals who identify with other political parties.

"I have seen from my side of the fence that there's a lot of those Democrats in Arkansas that feel like we do. I think our Arkansas Tea Party (can) promote and gather these people who are ... looking for something else. They're looking to us to set an example and say, 'What's wrong with this country is eroding our Constitution. They're trying to spend our way out of debt.'"

He added, "I believe I have a message that is a lot different that a lot of politicians are giving. Our nation needs to be represented by business people, farmers, doctors, as well as lawyers. ... I'm sick of the government trying to look down on businesses that provide jobs and succeed."

He said he will step down from the Arkansas Tea Party as he starts his run for Congress.

Cox said while he is a "die-hard Republican" when it comes to social issues, "I feel we can still legislate in a way that is open and graceful. I want to listen and have a bigger tent. We need to have the bigger tent in this party that Ronald Reagan was talking about."

State Sen. Gilbert Baker, who has been considering running for U.S. Senate against Lincoln, was among those who attended the Arkansas Conservative Forum on Friday.

In an interview with the Log Cabin Democrat, he said he was still thinking about his decision.

"I've always said that my decisions are based primarily on the needs of my family," Baker said. "My boys are home now, and I really enjoy what I'm doing."

He added he believes it is good that "there are a lot of people in the race" who come from various backgrounds.

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)