Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is retracting a television ad that an Alaska family said was exploiting a tragedy for political purposes, according to KTVA in Anchorage.
The controversy began Friday when Begich published a TV spot which blamed his opponent, former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, for reducing the sentence of Jerry Active, a 25-year-old man accused of murdering an Anchorage couple and sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter on May 25, 2013.
In a rebuttal ad, Sullivan vehemently denied Begich’s accusation, pointing out that he was not attorney general in Jan. 2009 when Active committed a series of crimes for which he should have been sentenced to at least eight years in prison.
Instead, a state database search failed to find that Active had a previous felony which would have triggered the minimum sentence.
The Begich-Sullivan volley angered the victims’ family. Bryon Collins, the family’s attorney, requested that both campaigns pull their ads and remove any references to the case. He said that the family feared that media spotlight on the case could potentially taint a jury pool when Active eventually goes to trial.
The Sullivan campaign accommodated the family’s request, but Begich’s was more hesitant.
On Sunday, the Begich campaign said it would be modifying the ad but did not commit to removing it completely.
That was apparently not enough for Collins and the family. (RELATED: Attorney Slams Begich Campaign For Refusing To Take Down Offensive Ad)
“You are tearing this family apart to the point that your ad was so shocking to them they now want to permanently leave the state as quickly as possible. Again, to be perfectly clear, it was your ad that shocked them,” Collins wrote Monday in a scathing letter to Begich.
“In case you have any doubt about the indirect information I am talking about, I specifically mean for you to remove from public view any discussion, reference, footnote, timeline, quote, anecdote, quip [of the case],” he continued in the letter.
Collins compared the Begich campaign to Sullivan’s, saying that Sullivan “did not cross the line” while Begich had.
According to a KTVA report on Tuesday, both the Begich and Sullivan campaigns had contacted local TV stations asking them to pull the advertisement.
One state political observer saw Begich’s decision to air the ad in the first place as an act of political desperation.
“You want to take that big risk if you think you are down and you need that home run you are going to go for it, and that’s what this advertisement told me about the Begich campaign — that they need to fight very hard and take significant risks in order to win in November,” University of Alaska, Anchorage political science professor Forrest Nabors told KTVA.
The race is considered a toss-up, though the most recent poll, from Rasmussen, has Sullivan leading Begich 47-45.