Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., on Wednesday unveiled a hard-hitting TV campaign ad, featuring a woman who says she was raped when she was 14 and that Republican Steve Daines wants to make “criminals” out of women who choose to have an abortion.
At the same time, Daines, Montana’s U.S. congressman, released his own TV ad Wednesday with a powerful testimonial by a woman, who compliments Daines’ “courage” for voting last year for the Violence Against Women Act – when many in his party did not.
“I think it was the perfect time to insert (our ad) into the conversation,” said Brock Lowrance, Daines’ campaign manager.
The dueling advertisements showcase how Daines and Walsh, who are running for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat this year, are vying for the crucial women’s vote in the upcoming election.
The Walsh campaign said it wants to zero in on Daines’ record, to let Montanans know where he stands.
“We’re focusing on holding Congressman Daines accountable, which did not happen over the course of his last race and is certainly overdue,” said Lauren Passalacqua, spokeswoman for the Walsh campaign.
Daines and Walsh are expected to face off this fall, although first they each must get through a three-way primary contest on June 3.
Daines is competing with state Rep. Champ Edmunds and University of Montana department assistant Susan Cundiff, both of Missoula, in a GOP primary, and Walsh faces Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams and former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger in the Democratic primary.
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Walsh’s ad features a Helena woman identified only as Melissa who says she was raped at 14 and implies that she then had an abortion — although the Walsh campaign wouldn’t confirm whether she became pregnant or had an abortion.
“I know the pain it caused me,” she says in the ad. “That’s why it’s so insulting that Congressman Steve Daines sponsored a bill to make abortion illegal for victims of sexual assault.”
She goes on to say that Daines is proposing to “make women criminals for having an abortion.”
Daines has said he thinks Roe v. Wade, the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, should be overturned and that abortion should be illegal, except in cases when the mother’s life is in danger.
The Walsh ad points to Daines’ co-sponsorship of a 2013 bill declaring that life begins at conception. The measure, stalled in the House, doesn’t specifically outlaw abortion, but is seen as laying the groundwork for overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to outlaw abortion.
As for making women “criminals,” the bill specifically says “nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.”
The Daines ad features a Bozeman woman identified as Rebecca Uzenski, who talks about being abused by her former husband and how the Violence Against Women Act is a “crucial turning point” for victims of domestic violence.
Daines was among 87 Republicans who voted for the bill in February 2013, when it passed the House 286-138. The act provides federal help to programs that assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
However, the Walsh campaign notes that Daines voted against an appropriations bill last fall that provided $417 million for programs under the act.