COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman touts his efforts to tackle heroin addiction in the first statewide television ads of his 2016 re-election campaign to be aired beginning Wednesday.
The three 30-second spots were released Tuesday. They are part of a $15 million TV and online ad buy by the Republican running through Election Day.
Portman speaks in the commercials about a Senate-passed bill of which he was the chief sponsor, aimed at issues including prevention, treatment and law enforcement help.
One of the ads features Gina Bonaminio, a recovering heroin addict from Lakewood. Bonaminio praises Portman’s leadership in combating the prescription drug and heroin epidemic. She describes Portman bringing Democrats and Republicans together to pass his legislation.
The Portman campaign makes no mention of Democratic ex-governor Ted Strickland, the senator’s opponent this fall.
The pair is locked in one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate contests this year, with Strickland viewed as one of Democrats’ best prospects of claiming a seat currently held by a Republican. Polls have them roughly tied.
The Strickland campaign on Tuesday criticized Portman for voting against the $1.1 trillion spending bill that would have funded the anti-heroin programs. Congress in December passed the measure, which included anti-heroin appropriations supported by Portman.
“Just like the hypocritical, ultimate Washington insider that he is, Senator Portman is trying to brag about drug abuse prevention efforts that he voted against funding,” Strickland campaign spokeswoman Liz Margolis said in a statement. She said, as governor, Strickland “tackled the scourge of drug abuse through enforcement, prevention and treatment.”
Portman’s campaign acknowledged that the senator from Cincinnati voted against the spending bill. But spokeswoman Michawn Rich said the measure ultimately passed with funding for the anti-heroin programs that Portman had fought for.
Rich called criticism over the congressional vote “laughable.” She said Strickland proposed and advocated for a state budget when he was governor that cut drug addiction services by nearly 30 percent and once voted against a bill providing drug addiction funding while in Congress.
“It’s a shame that Ted Strickland is so desperate to cover up his record that he is willing to play politics on such an important issue,” she said.
This story has been corrected to show funding for anti-heroin programs was included in the spending measure, not a different bill.