Dubuquer Jesse James shares his family's heartbreaking story in a new campaign ad for U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

Holley Lynn James, who grew up in Dubuque, was murdered by her estranged husband in 2008 while she was serving in the U.S. Army.

The campaign ad, which began airing Tuesday statewide, features Jesse James -- a veteran himself -- talking about his daughter's story and the legislation introduced by Braley to address domestic violence in the military.

"Bruce and I made a connection, and we have kept in touch ever since," James said Tuesday morning on a media conference call. "We didn't seek out Bruce. Bruce came to us. ... He and his staff were there with us every step of the way."

Braley, northeast Iowa's Democratic U.S. House member since 2007, is running for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat against Republican state legislator Joni Ernst. Ernst's campaign did not respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

The campaign has had heavy military overtones. Ernst is a commander in the Iowa U.S. Army National Guard; Braley formerly served on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee and is the son of a World War II veteran.

In 2011, Braley introduced the "Holley Lynn James Act," which was designed to improve the U.S. Defense Department's reaction to sexual assault and domestic violence in the military. Elements of the bill became law in subsequent years. Braley's campaign staff said the pieces of the act that are now law include providing victims access to victim advocates, requiring senior officers to address sexual assault reports and removing the ability of military commanders to overturn convictions or lessen sentences.

On Tuesday morning, Jesse James praised Braley for his actions in the wake of Holley's death. Jesse James said Braley kept a photo of Holley in his Dubuque and Washington, D.C., offices, so he could tell colleagues her story and the legislation her death inspired.

"Bruce was committed to honoring (Holley's) memory, to ensure that her death could be used to protect other young people just like her," Jesse James said. "I will be forever grateful to Bruce."

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