Two groups aligned with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have unveiled a combined $1.4 million in Nevada ad buys against Democrat Jacky Rosen, including one that paints her as insensitive to Vietnam veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange.
Rosen, who is running for Senate against Republican incumbent Dean Heller, was attacked in the first ad, for not supporting Vietnam veterans who have injuries related to being in the presence of Agent Orange, which is associated with various types of cancers.
It is a message with the potential to stir a significant group of voters. More than 40 percent of the state’s 200,000 veterans are 65 or older, and of that cohort, more than 30 percent served in Vietnam, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Rosen campaign called the ad misleading. “Mitch McConnell’s dark money group is desperately twisting the facts about Jacky Rosen’s strong support for and bipartisan work on behalf of Nevada’s veterans in Congress,” Rosen campaign spokesperson Molly Forgey said.
Commissioned by the conservative group One Nation, the ad—a $1 million advocacy effort that will run in the Las Vegas media market on a combination of broadcast and cable television, as well as radio and digital platforms—seized on a House vote on June 25 that Rosen missed. On the day of the vote, she had traveled to the southern border to respond to a Trump administration policy that resulted in undocumented children being separated from their parents after being caught crossing the border illegally.
On that June day, the House approved a bill that would extend medical benefits to some Navy veterans, who spent their tours of duty along the coastlines of Vietnam, to treat Agent Orange-related illnesses. The bill passed the House with an overwhelming 382-0 vote and now awaits action by the Senate. Some 45 members didn’t vote.
“When our Vietnam veterans needed Jacky Rosen doing her job in Washington, she was at the Southern border posing for photo ops," said One Nation President and CEO Steven Law, a former chief of staff to McConnell.
Forgey said that Rosen has been a long-time supporter of the bill, known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
“Jacky was an early co-sponsor of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, and she even helped introduce a similar bipartisan bill earlier this year,” Forgey said. “Senator Heller’s Republican allies in Washington are clearly hitting the panic button with these flimsy, dishonest attacks.”
The ad also called on Rosen to support a bill sponsored by New York Republican John Katko that would establish a task force to assess and make recommendations about the care and compensation that should be provided to veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange as well as their spouses, and multiple generations of their offspring.
Rosen was one of a handful of Democrats, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who went to the border to try to get information about undocumented parents being separated from their children under President Donald Trump's “zero tolerance” policy. The now-suspended policy entailed criminally prosecuting adults for illegally crossing the border, which resulted in their children being taken away while their cases were adjudicated.
The Nevada Senate race is expected to draw a lot of attention from outside of the state, in part because the margin of victory will likely be small and could help determine if Republicans can hold on to their slim 51-49 majority in the Senate.
The other ad is a $400,000 buy from the Senate Leadership Fund, which will run in Reno.
It criticizes Rosen for "partisan obstruction in Congress” and cited her votes against legislation funding the government on January 18 and January 22 that also included several years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to low-income, uninsured children whose family incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. The group also argued that those votes broke a pledge she made in 2016 to not vote to shut down the government.
The ad also makes use of a GOP tactic in other tight races across the country in which Republican candidates have sought to use House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer as a the personification of liberals who are out of touch with mainstream American voters. The ad said Rosen has voted with Pelosi “89 percent of the time.”
“Jacky Rosen is a partisan obstructionist who jeopardized the health care of millions of low-income children when she voted with Nancy Pelosi to shut down the federal government," Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Chris Pack said. "If Rosen can’t muster up the courage to stand up to Nancy Pelosi in the House, she definitely won’t be able to stand up to Chuck Schumer in the Senate."
Forgey defended the Nevada Democrat by providing examples of how she had worked across the aisle, including her work in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and her rating as the fifth-most bipartisan House freshman by public-affairs data and analytics firm Quorum. She also said that Rosen has supported the extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and that Heller is the one who helped trigger the 2013 government shutdown by siding with Republicans who refused to back a spending bill that funded the Affordable Care Act.
“The truth is that Jacky Rosen has been recognized for her commitment to bipartisanship and working across the aisle in Congress, she’s voted to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and she’s fighting to permanently reauthorize the program for our most vulnerable kids,” Forgey said.
The government shutdown occurred between Jan. 20 and 22 after Senate Democrats refused to provide the votes to end debate on the spending bill. The measures had passed the House despite Rosen’s votes against it.
Rosen, and most Democrats, opposed the spending bills because they did not address the status of the DREAMers, a term for young undocumented immigrants brought by their parents as children who feared being targeted for deportation. The deadlock was broken after McConnell agreed to hold votes on immigration legislation, none of which could muster enough support to advance.
Rosen also was one of 73 House Democrats to vote to reopen the government in February after a second short-term shutdown took place. She was the only Nevada House Democrat to support the measure.