NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Democratic Senate hopeful Conner Eldridge accused Sen. John Boozman of being “absent” on economic issues for Arkansas Wednesday, saying the Republican incumbent hasn’t done enough to advocate for small businesses in the state.

Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor who faces an uphill challenge unseating Boozman, criticized the lawmaker’s record on business issues as he campaigned with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. He pledged he would work as an “ambassador” for the state in trying to attract new jobs and help existing companies.

“I do think there is a role for a U.S. senator to play, that Sen. Boozman does not play, of being a leader for economic issues in your state,” Eldridge told reporters after holding a roundtable with Heitkamp and business owners. “I look at really good U.S. senators, historically and currently, and they’re right alongside the governor working on economic development issues. He’s absent on that issue as he is a whole host of issues.”

Boozman’s campaign dismissed Eldridge’s remarks, touting the Republican incumbent’s endorsements from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and his work on issues such as advocating opening trade to Cuba.

“Obviously the senator’s hand pick Obama-appointed opponent has been so busy coming up with new lies to peddle that he must have missed in August when Gov. Hutchinson and Sen. Boozman were both on hand to celebrate the opening of the Magellan Pipeline, a project that both offices worked on extensively to provide a way for refined petroleum to be delivered into Central Arkansas more efficiently,” Boozman campaign manager Chris Caldwell said in an email.

Eldridge has been trailing Boozman in fundraising in Arkansas, where Republicans control all statewide and federal offices. Eldridge’s campaign said Heitkamp is the first sitting senator to stump in the state for the Democratic hopeful.

Heitkamp said she had encouraged Eldridge to run for the U.S. Senate, and compared his bid to her surprise win in 2012 in a predominantly Republican state.

“On election day I got elected with a simple message that there is too much partisanship, too much ideology driving policy in Washington D.C. and we need to elect people who want to leave that behind and get the job done for the American people,” she told reporters.

Heitkamp, however, avoided criticizing Boozman. When asked about how he’s done in the Senate, she responded: “I like John Boozman. He’s a great guy.”

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