Jun 14, 2016 10:25 PM

Steinhauser: New shot in outside group air wars in Ayotte-Hassan Senate showdown

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – The leading outside group backing Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Tuesday took to New Hampshire airwaves with a new television commercial slamming a TV ad from a pro-Republican group that criticized how Gov. Maggie Hassan’s handled New Hampshire’s heroin and opioid epidemic.

The spot starting running on the same day that Hassan signed into law a bipartisan bill that expands statewide the state’s drug courts, which many see as an important tool in helping those battling drug addiction.

Watch: Hassan signs statewide expansion of drug courts

The commercial by Senate Majority PAC began with the announcer saying “it takes a toll – addiction to heroin or opioids. With bipartisan leadership from Gov. Hassan, New Hampshire’s working hard to save lives, expanding access to treatment and more support for law enforcement.”

The spot then shows a clip of the ad by One Nation that started running last week that was criticized for politicizing the drug crisis. The Senate Majority PAC ad uses clips of quotes critical of the One Nation spot, including the words “trash ad” from the Nashua Telegraph.

The new spot concludes with the narrator saying “Kelly Ayotte’s special interest backers will do anything to help her win, even exploiting the human tragedy of addiction. Sad. Very sad.”

Ayotte, the first-term Republican senator who’s running for re-election this year, is facing a Democratic challenge by Hassan. The race is one of the most high profile, expensive and negative Senate showdowns in the country.

Monday night NH1 News was first news organization in the Granite State to report that Senate Majority PAC said it’s spending $1.1 million to run the ad statewide. The ad buy includes WBIN-TV, the television home of NH1 News. The group, which is affiliated with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, has spent nearly $3 million to run ads this year critical of Ayotte.

NH1 News was first to report nine days ago that One Nation said it will spend $4.6 million to run the spot and other commercials. The ad buy began last Tuesday and runs through June 26th, and runs again July 6-15. Like the Senate Majority PAC ad buy, the One Nation buy also includes WBIN-TV.

One Nation, a non-profit 501(c)(4) group, was formed in May of last year. It’s linked to the pro-Republican American Crossroads super PAC and its non-profit Crossroads GPS, which were both co-founded and steered by Karl Rove, the mastermind behind President George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 election victories. The organization is run by Steven Law, who is also president of Crossroads. Law was also a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The narrator in the ad said “the heroin epidemic has devastated New Hampshire families. Yet in New England New Hampshire ranked dead last on spending on substance abuse programs in 2014. And Gov. Maggie Hassan’s budget veto last year forced delays for substance abuse programs. Program delays that threated families in need. Then Gov. Hassan’s drug czar resigned, after being under fire for doing too little, too late.”

“Tell Gov. Hassan it’s time to step up on the heroin epidemic,” the announcer concluded.

On the day that the ad starting running, the president of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire, a leading non-partisan advocate of treatment for drug addicts, as well as top Granite State Democratic elected officials urged One Nation to drop the commercial. Later that day Ayotte herself joined the critics, saying on Twitter that the group should “take down their ad.”

The group refused to take their spot down at the time. On Tuesday, after the release of the Senate Majority PAC ad, One Nation spokesman Ian Prior told NH1 News that "Gov. Hassan's failures to combat the heroin issue are well documented. Misleading political attack ads trying to cover up those failures are simply not going to work.

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