POLITICS
05/06/2013 04:13 pm ET Updated May 07, 2013

Kelly Ayotte Defends Her Background Check Record Amid Tough Ads

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) defended her vote against a background check amendment in an op-ed published Monday in the Seacoast Online, just before her vote came under fire in a new television ad put out by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

"Out-of-state special interests are running false ads attacking me and even lying about my efforts to prevent gun-related violence," she wrote. "I want to set the record straight: I support effective background checks and in fact voted recently to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)."

Ayotte's op-ed was published just before Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, launched a new ad criticizing the senator's vote against the Manchin-Toomey amendment that would have expanded background checks to gun shows and Internet sales. Americans For Responsible Solutions, the group launched by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), also announced in April that it would run radio ads targeting Ayotte's vote against Manchin-Toomey.

In the op-ed, Ayotte touts her support for the Grassley-Cruz amendment, the Republican alternative to the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey amendment. It failed by a 52-48 vote. It did not create new background checks.

The defense comes following Ayotte's rocky recess last week, where she was confronted by gun control advocates during town hall meetings. Erica Lafferty, who lost her mother, Dawn Hochsprung, in the Newtown shooting, asked Ayotte about her vote. Ayotte did not directly answer the question, but said she was sorry for Lafferty's loss. Ayotte also declined a dinner invitation from a widow whose husband died of gun violence. Since the Manchin-Toomey vote, Ayotte has seen her approval rating drop by 15 points.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal this weekend that the Manchin-Toomey measure might get more votes, and specifically mentioned Ayotte. "Joe Manchin called me yesterday," Reid said. "He thinks he has a couple more votes. The one senator, Republican Senator from New Hampshire [Kelly Ayotte], has been -- wham, man has she been hit hard. She's the only senator in the northeast to vote against background checks. She went from a hugely positive number in New Hampshire -- her negatives now outweigh her positives. She is being hit every place she goes. So we are going to pick up some more votes. I may be able to get another Democrat or two. That would get us up to 57. We may only need three additional Republicans. So we'll see."

Clarification: Language has been amended to clarify that advocates of gun control approached Ayotte during town hall meetings.

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