Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who is among the most vulnerable Democrats running for re-election next year, is fighting back. His first target is not Republicans, but rather New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Obama's gun bill.
In a new campaign ad today, Pryor defends his vote against the legislation seeking to expand background checks for guns sold online and at gun shows. He said the proposal would not have prevented the recent mass shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and Arizona and bluntly suggests that Bloomberg should mind his own business.
"No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do," Pryor says in the television ad that started airing today. "I listen to Arkansas."
The Bloomberg group that is the leading force behind the gun control legislation, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has been sharply critical of Pryor. To make its point, the group is using the 2008 murder of Arkansas Democratic Chairman Bill Gwatney, who was shot at the state party headquarters. The ad features Angela Bradford-Barnes, a Democrat who worked with Gwatney, who calls Pryor out for opposing the gun legislation.
Pryor, who was a friend of Gwatney's, called the ad "disgusting." He began pushing back against the effort today with the first ad of the election cycle by a Democratic senator. "The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I oppose President Obama's gun control legislation," Pryor says, looking directly in the camera. "I'm committed to finding real solutions to gun violence while protecting our Second Amendment rights."
Pryor is already something of a rare breed in the Senate: A Southern Democrat. His bid for a third term is being carefully watched as Republicans try to pick up six seats to win control of the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders have been critical of outside groups attacking senators in their own party - like Pryor. While the White House is eager to see its gun legislation passed, they are also intent on trying to help keep Pryor in office to help protect the Democratic majority.
UPDATE at 11:54 a.m.:
John Feinblatt, the chief policy advisor to the mayor and chairman of Bloomberg's push for gun control, pushed back at the criticism and said Pryor is less willing to distance himself from New York City when he is raising money.
"Mark Pryor had no problem listening to New Yorkers when he scooped up over a quarter of a million dollars for his campaigns from New York donors," Feinblatt said. "It's time for Senator Pryor to stop the hypocrisy and explain why he voted against a background check bill."