LANSING, Mich. — Days after voting to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is launching his first TV ad in what could be a tough re-election fight — highlighting his military service and work to help veterans.
The ad debuted during the Michigan-Michigan State basketball game on Saturday, nine months before the first-term senator’s expected general election showdown with Republican challenger John James.
James, a Detroit-based businessman, has touted his combat experience as a helicopter pilot in Iraq.
Peters’ ad is the first by either candidate in a race that is expected to attract vast amounts of outside spending in this key battleground state where Trump also will be on the November ballot.
So far, independent groups supporting Peters have vastly outspent organizations opposing Peters, nearly 5-to-1, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. James, who is seen as a rising star in the GOP, has outraised Peters since announcing his candidacy, though Peters has more cash on hand.
The new ad features both Peters, 61, and his wife, Colleen, who says most people do not know he served in the Navy Reserve and signed up again after 9/11.
"Every day, I see his passion for being effective — not talking, but getting things done," she says in the one-minute spot, which shows old photos of Peters in military uniforms.
Asked how much it spent to air the ad, the Peters campaign said the amount was “substantial” and it will air statewide.
The Michigan Campaign Finance Network estimated it was a $380,000 ad buy.
It was unclear how long the ad will run.
In a tweet, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox accused Peters of deciding to “rip off” James, 38, who has promoted his own military service, including during his 2018 run against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, when he ran an ad that showed him standing behind a Hellfire missile.
But Peters’ emphasis on his military credential is nothing new.
His early biographical ads in 2014, when he first won the seat and was the only freshman Democrat elected that cycle, also underscored his service.
“As a former lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve, fighting for our veterans is one of my top priorities in the Senate,” Peters said in a statement. “That’s why I’m proud of my record of making progress for Michigan, by working across the aisle to pass legislation to help those who have served and sacrificed to keep our state and our country safe.”
The ad cites Peters' ranking as one of the most "effective" senators according to the nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking, a joint project of the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University.
The GOP has sought to counter Peters’ bipartisan pitch by saying he votes with Democratic leadership “95 percent of the time.”
James has come under criticism from Democrats for not doing public events or media interviews. Peters has been blasted by Republicans in recent days for voting to convict Trump of abuse of power for his actions toward Ukraine. Peters also voted to convict Trump of obstructing Congress.
"The career politician put partisanship ahead of the people he was elected to represent," said Cox, who accused Peters of violating the will of Michigan voters who narrowly elected Trump. "This is truly the end of the line for Gary Peters."
Peters defended his votes, citing the oaths he took as an officer in the Navy Reserve and as a senator.
“What the president did was wrong, unacceptable and impeachable,” he said in remarks on the Senate floor. “No one in this country is above the law — no one — not even the president.”