Pryor ads hit first in on-air battling

Cotton drive also spending millions

Posted: August 6, 2014 at 5:38 a.m.

Correction: The National Republican Senatorial Committee plans to spend $2.4 million on commercials opposing U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. An incorrect figure was in this article. Also, the Republican committee's ads are scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 17; the story gave the wrong date.

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee began a $3.6 million ad campaign Tuesday aimed at boosting the re-election chances of two-term U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, meanwhile, plans to spend at least $4.3 million on commercials with the goal of unseating Pryor and electing U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

The Republican ads are to begin Aug. 25, Cotton spokesman David Ray said.

With the election less than three months away, the groups already have purchased thousands of 30-second ad spots on television stations in the Little Rock, Jonesboro and Fort Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale markets.

Viewers can expect hundreds of these ads to appear every week between now and Election Day.

At least a half-dozen other groups already have reserved ad time in hopes of affecting the outcome of the Senate race. In addition, the Pryor and Cotton campaigns will air commercials of their own.

The $3.6 million ad purchase by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is more than what Pryor spent on his 2002 and 2006 Senate campaigns combined.

A University of Arkansas at Fayetteville associate professor of political science, Andrew Dowdle, was surprised by the size of the ad purchase.

"Wow, that, especially for Arkansas, is an incredible figure," Dowdle said. "That's certainly shocking just in terms of its magnitude."

Arkansas has never witnessed such a battle of the airwaves, he said.

"While television had played some role in those elections, it had been much more of a subsidiary role," he said.

The difference this year is the national focus on Arkansas' Senate race and the fact that many of the larger, wealthier states don't have competitive Senate or House races this year, Dowdle said.

"You have all these states where you have a lot of money, a lot of interest in national politics, but not a lot of really [competitiv0e] races that they're going to be able to affect on their own," he said.

With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, Democrats are trying to help their incumbents avoid defeat, he said.

"For Democrats there aren't that many good targets even in terms of playing defense at this point," he said.

An ad put out Tuesday by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee centers on two no votes Cotton cast in February 2013. One concerned authorizing the National Institutes of Health to establish a National Pediatric Research Network and give out research grants. The other concerned reauthorizing the Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program through fiscal 2017 at the current funding level.

When the program was reauthorized in April, Arkansas Children's Hospital Chief Executive Officer Marcy Doderer said the $6.4 million in federal funds the hospital receives makes up the bulk of the $11 million it spends on training pediatricians.

Cotton, along with the rest of the House delegation, voted in favor of the authorization legislation in April.

In the ad, retired social worker Maka Parnell talks about spending time with children in intensive care and accuses Cotton of voting against funding for them.

"I don't know where his priorities are, but they're not with Arkansas children," she says in the video.

Cotton's campaign disputed the ad's assertion that the vote was against funding.

"Once again Senator Mark Pryor's liberal allies are lying about Tom Cotton's record. In fact Senator Pryor is the only candidate in this race who voted to cut funding for the programs they mention in this ad. It is unfortunate that after so many years in Washington, Mark Pryor and his friends have simply forgotten how to tell the truth," Ray said in a statement.

He pointed to Pryor's vote for the Budget Control Act of 2011, known as sequestration, which set an across-the-board cap on spending for most programs, including the pediatrician training program.

The National Pediatric Research Network did not exist in 2011. It would have been created by the 2013 bill. Ray later clarified that he was referring only to the medical education program.

Pryor's deputy campaign manager, Erik Dorey, said Cotton has previously said he also supports sequestration.

"Mark Pryor has always supported pediatric residency at Arkansas Children's Hospital," Dorey said. "Tom Cotton voted to eliminate the program and was the only congressman from Arkansas to do so because the out-of-state special interests funding his campaign told him to do so."

On Monday, Cotton announced an ad running statewide criticizing Pryor's recent comment that the southern border is stronger now than it was 10 years ago. The ad points to Pryor's 2013 vote on legislation to overhaul the country's immigration system and to Republican amendments he voted against considering.

In a statement, Cotton said Washington has made a mess of border control.

"[Sen.] Pryor's solution has been to vote for a Senate bill providing amnesty and to allow President [Barack] Obama to continue with his planned executive amnesty. That's a position that is out-of-touch with Arkansas, and I will continue to insist that we secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws," he said.

Pryor's campaign responded that Cotton was ignoring times Pryor voted to increase security at the border.

"If Congressman Cotton were being honest, he'd tell Arkansans how Mark Pryor repeatedly bucked his party and President Obama by supporting a double-layer fence on the border, and that Mark last year voted for the strongest border security measures ever proposed," Dorey said. "Instead, Congressman Cotton has decided once again that it suits his political ambitions to lie about Mark's record, but Arkansans are smarter than Tom Cotton gives them credit and voters won't be fooled by his shameless false attacks."

A section on 08/06/2014