Vulnerable Senate Dem touts opposition to NSA

Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) is using his opposition to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs to gain an edge over his Republican challenger.

Udall's campaign on Thursday released a new online advertisement that highlights his role as one of the largest critics of the embattled spy agency in Congress.

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The ad is Udall’s first to tout his record as an NSA critic in the race against Rep. Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Energy: Exxon sues feds over M fine | Deputy Interior pick advances | Oil concerns hold up Russia sanctions push Senate advances controversial Trump Interior nominee Why governors hold power in the battle for GOP healthcare votes MORE (R-Colo.) and could signal a focus on privacy issues in the hotly contested Senate race.

“We’ve got to keep our eye on government, or government winds up with its eyes on us," Udall said in the ad, speaking to the camera from a clean office space. "Mass collection of our phone and Internet records started under a Republican president and continued under a Democratic one."

Amid clips from a number of news interviews, Udall added that he “won’t tolerate it.”

“I’ve helped force their spying on Americans out into the open,” he said. “As Coloradans, our rights include the freedom to be left alone.”

Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been a vocal critic of the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, as well as the agency’s use of a “backdoor” legal authority to collect emails, online chats and other Internet communications.

When Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a bill to reform the spy agency earlier this summer, Udall was one of two Senate Democrats to criticize it for not going far enough. 

To date, however, Udall’s reelection campaign has largely shied away from talking about the NSA. Instead, the contest has focused on issues including energy and birth control, though Udall has also focused on turning out Hispanic voters in the state.

Udall has maintained a single-digit lead over Gardner in many recent polls, but the race is extremely competitive, and the outcome could determine whether Democrats retain a majority in the Senate.