WASHINGTON -- Sen. Claire McCaskill's first campaign ad of 2018 will begin airing in Missouri Tuesday, and it will feature a World War II veteran exposed to mustard gas experiments that McCaskill helped garner government benefits for after years of rejections.
Arla Wayne Harrell is from Macon, Mo. McCaskill-sponsored legislation eased the burden of proof on a handful of surviving World War II vets like Harrell who were exposed to the experiments but were told they could not talk about them under fear of being prosecuted for violating national security.
McCaskill also pressured the Pentagon and VA on the 90-year-old Harrell's behalf. He is now receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help cover health conditions his family says were related to his exposure at Camp Crowder in Missouri in 1945.
Starting a television narrative on a positive note in anticipation of what could be a negative campaign is a time-tested strategy for a controversial incumbent like McCaskill, who will compete in what is expected to be one of the most expensive races in the country this year.
McCaskill, D-Mo., is expected to face Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is considered the front-runner in a Republican primary to oppose her. Missouri is considered pivotal in which political party controls the Senate in 2019.
Outside groups already have begun barraging the state airways with campaign ads, but this is the first by McCaskill herself. Hawley, too, has largely kept his television advertising in abeyance, as both Hawley and McCaskill have focused on fundraising for advertising later in the year. Hawley has run online ads attacking McCaskill.
McCaskill has entitled this first TV ad, "Justice," and it features several of Harrell's children who petitioned the government for decades on their father's behalf. They credit McCaskill for getting the job done.
A daughter, Bev Howe, says in the commercial: "I feel like she's a family member who cares about my father." Another daughter, Trish Ayers, adds: "It gave me new hope."
In the Harrell ad, McCaskill points out that for a half century, Harrell "couldn't talk about it...to anybody. And then when he finally could, the government says to him, 'We don't believe you'? We went to work."
The ad is designed to show how McCaskill was able to get legislation passed in a divided Congress. It also serves to compare her experience with the lack thereof of any of her Republican challengers, including Hawley.
Discussing how hard it was to get legislation passed in Congress, she told the Post-Dispatch last month: "Arla took a couple of years. You just don't show up here and immediately pass legislation."
Republicans have tried to portray McCaskill as a liberal in centrist clothes, and recently have tried to associate her with comments that 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made recently about "backwards" areas of the country that supported Donald Trump. McCaskill has said she disagreed with Clinton's remarks.
Trump, who signed into law the McCaskill legislation she is touting in her ad, won Missouri by almost 19 percentage points in 2016. He has visited the state three times since his election. ___
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