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Pandemic politics: Ads from health groups target vulnerable senators on House COVID-19 package

Campaign focuses on Collins, Gardner, McSally and Tillis

Two health care political groups are teaming up on a six-figure ad buy urging senators up for reelection to support COVID-19 response legislation the House approved last month, which the Senate has no plans to take up.

Health Care Voter and Be A Hero are rolling out digital ads Thursday in the Senate battleground states of Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, urging Republican senators to vote for a nearly $3.5 trillion bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the chamber will not consider it.

The ads are targeting North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the North Carolina, Arizona and Maine races as Toss-up and the Colorado race as Tilt Democratic.

In the ads, constituents describe their challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and urge the lawmakers “to be a hero” by voting for the bill.

“It’s important to continue to push to fight to ensure that folks are able to get the resources that they need in the midst of this pandemic,” said Rosemary Enobakhare, the campaign director of Health Care Voter. She added that the groups wants to keep the issue at the front of voters’ minds.

Enobarkhare said as the number of cases rise in some states, such as in Arizona, the senators need to “step up.”

“It’s important for Martha McSally to acknowledge that and be the senator that they need her to be and fight on behalf of her constituents,” she said. “People want the resources. People need it.”

Julia Barnes, who oversees the Be A Hero PAC’s campaigns and grassroots organizing, said that as the country may soon enter a second wave of infections, it’s important to urge lawmakers to act now.

“Continuing to do nothing and refuse to take action on something as common sense as the Heroes Act would really be equivalent to essentially condemning their constituents to suffer,” she said, referencing the Democrats’ name for the measure.

Outside groups have spent at least six figures against Republicans in the Senate races in each of these states, with Collins’ race leading the way. Spending against Republican senators by outside groups in this election cycle has totaled $4 million in Maine, $759,000 in Colorado, $479,000 in North Carolina and $322,935 in Arizona race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Gardner is among the Republican senators who have touted work responding to COVID-19. An ad released by his campaign last month touts the role he said he played in bringing tests for the virus from foreign countries like South Korea.

McSally’s campaign has released ads blaming China for the pandemic, saying the United States should develop pharmaceuticals here, rather than in China.

The ads rolled out on Thursday also criticize McConnell for his April comments that states should seek bankruptcy protection rather than asking the federal government to provide them funds to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Republicans have largely backed off that stance in recent weeks.

The ad buy comes after Health Care Voter released a six-figure ad buy in Montana last month criticizing Republican Sen. Steve Daines for voting against paid leave proposals. Inside Elections rates that race Lean Republican.

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