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Democratic group spends money in Alaska, following controversial ad

By Ashley Killough, CNN
updated 7:13 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
The spot by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hits Dan Sullivan for opposing Obamacare.
The spot by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hits Dan Sullivan for opposing Obamacare.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The DSCC is spending money against the GOP challenger in Alaska's Senate race
  • The Democratic incumbent senator is facing criticism for making an ad that focused on a heinous murder
  • Sen. Mark Begich pulled down the ad after the victims' family got involved
  • The race in Alaska is close and could determine the balance of power in the Senate

Washington (CNN) -- A group that's working to keep Democrats in control of the Senate is releasing its first television ad in the contested U.S. Senate race in Alaska between incumbent Sen. Mark Begich and his GOP challenger, Dan Sullivan.

The "multi-million dollar" ad buy from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee comes as Begich's campaign faces a slew of negative headlines for releasing a political attack ad that focused on a gruesome 2013 murder and sexual assault case.

The DSCC said it was already planning to go up with the new 30-second spot before the recent controversy, and the ad doesn't mention Begich's ad. Rather, it hits Dan Sullivan for opposing Obamacare.

In the commercial, an elderly woman whose husband has Alzheimer's disease says Sullivan "supports a plan" to slash Medicare benefits, and his policies would raise prescription drug costs.

In the commercial, an elderly woman whose husband has Alzheimer's disease says Sullivan "supports a plan" to slash Medicare benefits, and his policies would raise prescription drug costs.

Fact Check: Would repeal of Obamacare hike seniors' drug costs?

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Alaska has the largest growth rate for seniors (age 65 and older); the population for that age group increased by 54% between 2000 and 2010.

The ad also hits Sullivan for saying he's open to raising the minimum age for Social Security eligibility. While Sullivan has advocated for reform for younger generations, he has said "we're not going to touch" benefits for seniors who are either receiving Social Security benefits or about to receive them.

"But with the younger generation, to phase in reform, there is opportunity," he said last month at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce GOP debate.

CNN rates the race between Sullivan and Begich as one of six toss-up contests in this year's midterm elections. As a Democratic senator in a reliably red state, Begich is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to retake the majority in the Senate. The DSCC also has spent money on ads in Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Iowa, Colorado and Michigan.

The new spot comes as Begich is under hot water after his campaign went up with a Willie Horton-style ad against Sullivan on Friday.

The spot accused Sullivan of being soft on crime, focusing on a case in which a man allegedly murdered an elderly couple last year and sexually assaulted the couple's granddaughter, as well as another elderly woman in the home.

At the time of the crime, the suspect had just finished a prison sentence of four years for another crime. His sentence should have been longer because his record included a separate felony, but he was only sentenced to four years because of a mistake by the state.

Because Sullivan was serving as attorney general at the time of the suspect's sentencing in 2010, Begich's campaign tried to fault Sullivan for letting the suspect go early.

However, the mistake that led to the short sentence was made before Sullivan became attorney general. Politifact gave the ad a "Pants on fire" rating, saying the ad "is not only inaccurate, it makes an inflammatory accusation."

Shortly after the spot aired, the victims' family called on Begich and Sullivan, who had released his own ad countering the claims, to pull down their spots, saying the publicity could affect the jury pool for the trial scheduled for this month.

Sullivan's campaign asked TV stations to stop running the ad Sunday, while Begich's team first said it would alter the ad to remove references to the case. The campaign later pulled down the ad altogether.

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