A liberal veterans group is launching a television ad in North Dakota, criticizing GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer for comments about the military and for votes relating to pay raises for the military and Veterans Affairs funding.
VoteVets Action Fund is launching a $270,000 ad buy on both broadcast and cable networks throughout the state, starting Saturday and running through Aug. 3.
The fact that VoteVets is spending in the race signals that Democrats believe they have a salient campaign message on veterans issues against Cramer, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
The ad recounts comments Cramer made about military service, including a comment to Reuters in March in which he said continuing to vote to increase defense spending is “becoming a very difficult pill.”
In his full remarks to Reuters, Cramer called such spending a “high priority” and his comments were in the broader context of a longer-term spending package. Such packages are typically supported by defense hawks and appropriators, who argue that uncertainty caused by short-term spending bills damages the military. But the massive government funding packages are also distasteful to many lawmakers, particularly to Republicans trying to rein in spending.
The ad also cites a vote on the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, when Cramer voted against a Democratic motion to amend the bill to increase service members' monthly pay by 2.3 percent and require that members of the military be paid during a lapse in government funding. All but one Republican also voted against the motion. Cramer did vote for final passage of the bill.
The ad cites another vote in 2013 on a Democratic motion to amend a Veterans Affairs spending bill to add $9.2 million in funding to hire more claims processes for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Cramer joined all but two Republicans in voting against the motion. He voted for final passage of the spending bill.
Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election this year, since she is running in a state President Donald Trump won by 36 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilts Republican.
The North Dakota Republican Party slammed the group's ad in a statement on Monday.
"VoteVets' involvement is nothing more than another sign that out-of-touch, liberal groups are worried about losing their friend and ally Heidi Heitkamp," said party spokesman Jake Wilkins. "Kevin Cramer is running on his actual record of support for our nation's veterans and our military. Heitkamp's team clearly can't do the same."
Heitkamp has stressed her record supporting veterans. On Saturday Air Force veteran Patrick Moore wrote in the Bismarck Tribune that Heitkamp had been a "loyal advocate" for veterans in North Dakota.