|Pryor, GOP Clash Over Ad|
Oct. 9 -- U.S. Senate candidate Mark Pryor of Arkansas has started firing back at what he calls false accusations in a Republican-sponsored ad that began airing the last week in September.
Pryor, who is currently serving as Arkansas' attorney general and is locked in a close race with incumbent Sen. Tim Hutchinson, says that an ad paid for by the state GOP and the National Republican Senatorial Committee contains an outright lie about his support of the Arkansas National Guard.
"With images of soldiers in full combat gear and a U.S. fighter jet superimposed over a U.S. flag, the television ad claims that 'when state employees in the Guard and Reserve were called to active duty ... Pryor said 'no' to paying back the wages they lost while serving,'" the Associated Press reported.
The Pryor camp claims his vote on the bill had the opposite effect: Arkansas Guardsmen got more money because the law was defeated.
"This is something where the Republicans are just dead-square, 100 percent wrong. They've got the facts exactly 100 percent backwards," Pryor told reporters.
"Former state Adjutant Gen. James Ryan was calling reporters from his vacation in Florida to set the record straight. Pryor's vote against the bill helped the Guard, the general declared, by preserving their right to draw their regular pay as well as military pay while participating in up to 15 days of training annually," an Associated Press report said.
State GOP Chairman Marty Ryall, however, said the party stood by the ad and dismissed Ryan as a loyal Democrat who was appointed by Bill Clinton and had contributed to Democratic candidates.
Pryor says he voted "no" on the bill because it would have allowed state and local government agencies to only pay the difference between a soldier's National Guard pay and his or her regular government salary.
The bill's sponsor has said the law was designed to relieve the state and local governments from the financial burden of paying employees while they also received full-time Guard pay.
Republicans have pointed out, however, that another section of the bill, having to do with long-term emergency use of the Guard, said that soldiers would receive the difference between their civilian government pay and military salaries if they were deployed for more than 30 days.
Previously the law stipulated that soldiers would be paid only their military salary after being deployed for 30 days. Pryor's supporters have responded by saying that receiving extra pay during routine annual training periods was more important to National Guard soldiers, especially those with low-paying jobs.
Polls show that the race is extremely close and observers, including National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Bill Frist, have said that the race is too close to call.
Hutchinson, for his part, has largely remained silent on the issue of the Pryor's vote on the Guard pay bill, letting Ryall and other party leaders defend the ad.