Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for governor launched a new ad Monday accusing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II of betraying southwest Virginia, as the Democrat seeks to capi­tal­ize on an ongoing controversy over natural gas royalties.

The dispute at the center of the ad is over how — and whether — landowners should be paid royalties by natural gas companies who extract coal-bed methane from their land. Cuccinelli (R) became ensnared in the issue when a federal judge expressed shock at the advice and assistance an assistant attorney general from Cuccinelli’s office was giving to two energy companies embroiled in a lawsuit.

The ad features Shirley Keene of Raven, Va., who has been battling for several years over royalties from methane gas on her land. She complains that she hasn’t “seen one penny” in royalties so far.

“Ken Cuccinelli’s office was giving information to the energy companies to fight us,” Keene says. “Then Cuccinelli got $100,000 for his Governor’s campaign. He has made it perfectly clear he cannot be trusted. When you help an energy company against the people that have elected you to office that is wrong, you have let your people down, you have let the community down, and I do not trust him.”

Cuccinelli’s campaign said McAuliffe had decided to launch the first negative ad of their duel to distract from his own shortcomings.

“If Virginians want a governor who’s willing to use scare tactics to get elected, Terry McAuliffe is their candidate,” said Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix. “It’s notable that his campaign, with no positive economic message to run on, has decided to go up with negative, misleading TV ads. With regard to the methane case, McAuliffe is deliberately trying to distort the facts in a shameless attempt to drum up votes.”

Cuccinelli’s office has said the assistant attorney general, Sharon M.B. Pigeon, did nothing inappropriate and has denied that Cuccinelli’s campaign contributions from one of the companies, played any role in the legal case.

Republicans have also accused McAuliffe and his fellow Democrats of pushing policies that would cripple the Virginia coal industry, particularly in the wake of a speech by President Obama that called for power plants to meet strict carbon pollution standards.

“Ken Cuccinelli has spent his entire life putting Virginians first, and that includes landowners in Southwest Virginia,” Nix said. “Unlike Terry McAuliffe, Ken has a record of service in Virginia and a record of standing up to the federal government and the Obama/McAuliffe war on coal.”

The McAuliffe campaign would not say where the ad is running or how big the buy is. The Democratic Party of Virginia is also on the air with a commercial criticizing Cuccinelli for his silence on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.