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Mar 9, 2016 1:34 PM

Steinhauser: New pro-Democratic super PAC ad takes on Ayotte over SCOTUS showdown

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – A new television commercial by the leading super PAC supporting Democratic Senate candidates targets Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte over her stance in the battle over the Supreme Court vacancy and attempts to tie her to likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump wants the Senate to delay filling the Supreme Court vacancy so he can choose the nominee next year. And Senator Kelly Ayotte is right there to help. Ayotte joined Trump and party bosses in refusing to consider any nominee, ignoring the Constitution. Newspapers call Ayotte’s actions, ‘appalling,’ ‘wrong,’ and ‘disappointing’,” says the narrator in the spot being released Wednesday by the Senate Majority PAC, which has close ties to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

“Kelly Ayotte: Ignoring the Constitution; not doing her job,” concludes the narrator.

Ayotte says she won’t meet with anyone the President nominees to succeed the late high court justice Antonin Scalia, who was a hero to conservatives. Ayotte agrees with most other Senate Republicans that the next president, rather than Obama, should nominate a successor to Scalia.

Ayotte is facing a Democratic challenge this year from Gov. Maggie Hassan in what’s shaping up to be the most high profile, expensive, and negative Senate battles in the country, as the GOP tries to hold onto control of the chamber.

State and national Democrats, as well as Hassan, have all criticized Ayotte over her stance on the Supreme Court vacancy.

In a recent one-on-one interview with NH1 News, Hassan said that “I am really disappointed that Sen. Ayotte has stood with her party's leadership saying she won't even talk to a potential nominee."

"The President has a constitutional duty to put a nominee forward and she has a constitutional duty to consider that nomination," she added.

Last Friday, speaking with NH1 News, Ayotte said “there’s a very consequential presidential election happening right now.”

“I want the people in this country to weigh in on such a consequential nomination by the decision they make for the next president. Waiting for this direct presidential election and letting the people weigh in with their will is the best thing that we should do,” she added.

NH1 News was first to report Tuesday on Twitter that Senate Majority PAC would start running the new ad on New Hampshire airwaves starting Wednesday. The super PAC tells NH1 News they’re spending approximately $220,000 to run the ad for one week on broadcast television, including WBIN-TV.

It’s the third TV commercial Senate Majority PAC has run against Ayotte, but the first since last September.

Read: Word of new super PAC ad sparks new skirmish in Ayotte-Hassan outside money battle

Watch/Read: Ayotte faces primary challenge

Wednesday morning, after the spot began running on New Hampshire airwaves, the Ayotte campaign called on the governor to condemn the ad.

"While Kelly continues to run a positive campaign about New Hampshire, Governor Hassan’s repeated refusal to sign the People’s Pledge has given the signal to Harry Reid and her Washington allies to flood New Hampshire airwaves with negative advertising,” Ayotte campaign manager Jon Kohan said in a statement. “If Governor Hassan means what she says about third party special interest money, she will immediately condemn Harry Reid’s negative ads and ask for them to be taken down.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley responded.

"This is some Trump-level hypocrisy from Kelly Ayotte's campaign. Nearly $6 million has already been spent to benefit Ayotte in just over the past year, including two new ad buys in the last month and negative ads attacking the Governor throughout last year - yet Ayotte has never asked for a single one of these ads to be taken down. Nor did she call for the $1.2 million in TV ads (that include Ayotte's own campaign b-roll footage) from a Karl Rove-backed group to be taken down,” Buckley said.

Last month Ayotte challenged Hassan to sign the Peoples Pledge.

The pledge is based on the 2012 agreement between then Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. It would require either candidate that benefits from third-party spending (from Super PACs, 501c4 groups, and other outside organizations) to folk over 50% of the cost of that ad buy to a charity of the opponent’s choosing.

So far this cycle, more than $2 million’s been dished out by outside groups to run ads in New Hampshire’s blockbuster Senate battle, which is shaping up to be one of the most expensive and negative campaigns in the race to control the chamber.

Hassan’s campaign responded to Ayotte’s offer a day later with what they called a “Strengthened New Hampshire Peoples Pledge” which would limit each campaign to a $15 million spending cap.

Speaking with NH1 News recently, Ayotte charged that "unfortunately Gov. Hassan clearly doesn’t want to keep third party special interests spending out of this race."

"We know it works in reducing third party spending and unfortunately she’s interjected issues that don’t have anything to do with third party spending so clearly I think that’s politician speak for ‘I don’t want to keep this money out and I don’t want to sign this pledge’ unfortunately," she added.

Wednesday Hassan told NH1 News that "I’ve invited Sen. Ayotte to have direct campaign to campaign negotiations. So far she hasn’t taken me up on that offer."

"It is troubling to me that just after outside groups have spent money in the state promoting her candidacy, literally within the last months, I think she is displaying hypocrisy here saying while she can have outside groups spending money on her behalf I shouldn’t have outside groups spending money on my behalf. And I think what I would encourage her to do is give me a call and we can have campaign to campaign negotiations about a strengthened Peoples Pledge," she added.

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