(CNN)— Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, facing his first Democratic primary challenger in 24 years, released his first campaign ad Tuesday spotlighting his record on veterans issues.
The 60-second spot, “Fenway,” tells the story of Iraq war veteran Sean Bannon, and how Kerry personally touched his life.
“I know how much he’s done for vets like me,” Bannon says of Kerry, praising Kerry’s record pushing for more funding for veterans’ mental health and education benefits, and his efforts on behalf of the move to boost the minimum death benefits for the families of military members from $12,000 to $250,000.
Kerry awarded Bannon his purple heart at Fenway Park on Patriots Day, and surprised him by being able to throw the first pitch of the game.
“John Kerry, he goes to bat for all us vets,” Bannon says.
The four-term senator and Vietnam veteran is being challenged in the September 16 primary by Massachusetts lawyer Ed O’Reilly.
Most recently, O’Reilly has challenged Kerry to a debate before their fall face-off.
Some critics say Kerry could face a more challenging re-election because of the decision to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president over Sen. Hillary Clinton, who won his state’s Super Tuesday primary with 56 percent of the vote.
“I don’t think you have to be a mathematician to divine that Senator Kerry's early endorsement of Senator Obama put our opponent on the ballot,” said Kerry’s press secretary Brigid O’Rourke.
update from O'Reilly after the jump
Because of the long and “passionate” primary season, “many of Sen. Clinton’s supporters have made it clear that they wanted to register their displeasure with Sen. Kerry’s endorsement,” said O’Rourke adding that the senator has been able to put the past behind him.
The initial ad buy of $300,000 began airing Tuesday in Boston and Springfield, and on cable television throughout the state and in Providence, Rhode Island, whose media market includes parts of Massachusetts, according to Kerry’s campaign.
The winner of the September primary will face Republican Jeff Beatty, a former Army Delta Force Officer, in the general election this November.
Update: Ed O’Reilly tells CNN he has a couple hundred thousand dollars to spend, but it has yet to be decided how much money will be allocated for campaign ads.
“There is no way I can compete with John Kerry’s money,” said O’Reilly. “When I first started this campaign I realized to take him on I had to do it on the ground and I couldn’t do it on the airwaves."