May 5, 2016 9:10 PM

Steinhauser-First on NH1 News: Top pro-Democratic super PAC to drop millions more in NH Senate ad wars

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – The leading outside group backing Democratic Senate candidates has reserved more than $4 million in air time to run television commercials from August through the November election in New Hampshire’s blockbuster U.S. Senate battle between Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan, the Democratic challenger.

NH1 News was first to report the move Wednesday afternoon by Senate Majority PAC, which has ties to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Ad buying sources in New Hampshire told NH1 News that at least $4.2 million has been reserved on Granite State television, including WBIN-TV, the home of NH1 News, with more spending likely to come. Senate Majority PAC communications director Shripal Shah confirmed the reservation.

The new move by Senate Majority PAC is more proof that the battle between Ayotte and Hassan is one of the most expensive, negative and high profile Senate races in the country this year.

The group has spent around $1.6 million since last autumn to run spots critical of Ayotte. Much of that spending has come the past couple of months, with Senate Majority PAC launching a series of ads critical of Ayotte’s stance, along with almost every other Republican senator, not to consider President Obama’s nomination of federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Ayotte and her fellow Republicans insist that the next president, rather than Obama, should nominate a successor to the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia.

Ayotte has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in spending by third party groups of ads that have criticized Hassan.

Shah told NH1 News that "throughout her time in the Senate, Kelly Ayotte has consistently put her party bosses and their agenda ahead of what's best for New Hampshire. We're going to make sure voters know the truth about her record and the consequences of keeping her in the Senate."

In a statement, Ayotte campaign communications director Liz Johnson said “it's no surprise that Harry Reid is planning to dump more third party money into New Hampshire to prop up his handpicked candidate. Governor Hassan's refusal to sign the same People's Pledge as Jeanne Shaheen opened the floodgates to outside spending, and voters unfortunately can expect to be inundated with millions of dollars worth of attack ads in the coming months as a result.”

The ‘People’s Pledge’ aims to vastly limit the amount of outside spending in a race. It was implemented in the 2012 election between then Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Ayotte proposed implementing the pledge last year after Hassan announced her Senate bid. The governor countered with what she called an improved pledge. The campaigns could not come to an agreement and both sides blame each other for the impasse.

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