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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's U.S. Senate candidates turned their attention to Medicare on Thursday with a pair of statewide TV ads targeting the state's roughly 800,000 seniors who benefit from the government health insurance program.
Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes turned to her grandmother once again for a starring role, only this time it was a serious discussion about her grandfather's stroke in 2000. Elsie Case, who appeared in a popular ad during Grimes' 2011 run for Secretary of State, talked about the financial pressure caused by her husband's stroke in 2000.
"We scrimped and saved, because suddenly our finances were going for medical bills," Case says in the 60-second spot.
Grimes comes from a wealthy family. Her father owns several successful businesses, and records show her family has made political contributions of more than $100,000 over the years. But in a statement released by the campaign, Case said she and her husband, who died in 2010, have always been proud people and "we wanted to do it on our own."
Grimes said she watched the last 10 years of her grandfather's life as her grandparents "could barely afford the medicines."
"This is why we have to strengthen Medicare. Senator McConnell has voted over and over again to raise seniors' Medicare costs. I'll never do that," Grimes said.
McConnell's campaign responded quickly with an ad on the air by midafternoon designed to show his compassion for seniors dealing with health issues. The ad features London farmer Hasque Williams, who said he got sick in 2010 and had to go to the hospital. But a paperwork error caused Medicare not to pay their bills.
"We were threatened by bill collectors and we were so upset," Pansy Williams, Hasque's wife, says in the 30-second spot. "Mitch contacted Medicare, and with his experience, you bet they listened. Mitch fought for us and gave us peace of mind."
Thursday was the second time the campaigns have scuffled over Medicare. A pair of ads from the campaigns over the summer ran afoul of several fact checkers, who noted the campaigns were repeating the same dubious Medicare claims that surfaced during the 2012 presidential election.
Grimes is trying to unseat McConnell, the five-term Senator and Senate minority leader. Public polls show a tight race, with McConnell maintaining a narrow lead in recent weeks. McConnell has tried to tie Grimes to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky. Grimes has pushed back, saying she disagrees with Obama on coal and gun control.
McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said Grimes latest ad was "a touching family story ... followed by a totally debunked partisan attack." She noted the budget McConnell supported in 2011 - which would have privatized Medicare over time, leading some analysts to predict higher costs for seniors - would not have affected seniors at or near retirement age. And later versions of the bill that McConnell supported would have preserved traditional Medicare plans as an option.
Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton said the new ad makes a broader claim that Medicare costs would have increased "from a variety of mechanisms" for current and future retirees, including higher costs for prescription drugs and preventive care.
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