Raleigh, N.C. — A group formed to promote the work of Republican House lawmakers made a last-minute cable ad buy in the campaign of a freshman member running for re-election, part of a small flurry of late outside spending on behalf of legislative and other candidates this year.
When North Carolina House Legislative Partners was first formed, it produced television ads widely seen as helpful to state House Speaker Thom Tillis' nascent U.S. Senate campaign, but it was less clear what it might do for other members of the legislature.
While the group has maintained a robust website, it was largely silent in elections until late October. On Oct. 16, it transferred $71,000 to NCHLP Education Fund, a separate corporation. That corporation produced an ad that aired on several cable channels in the Charlotte market on behalf of Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg.
The 30-second spot is a fairly standard-issue campaign ad that extols Bryan's record. He was an active fundraiser who won with 55 percent of the vote, so it's unclear how much the spot might have helped him."I never saw the ad myself," Bryan said. "I had friends say, 'Hey, I saw your ad.' I had to tell them it wasn't really mine."
Bryan said he didn't do any of his own television advertising this time, instead relying on radio and direct mail. He said he didn't know why House Legislative Partners decided to spend in his race or whether it helped his campaign much.
The Charlotte Republican was the only beneficiary of such a buy from the House Legislative Partners spending, according to public records. Roger Knight, a lawyer for the group, said the ad was designed to combat "misleading" attacks on Bryan's record.
However, Bryan was not the only candidate to benefit from a last-minute infusion of advertising from non-candidate groups:
- The North Carolina Humane Society reported spending $15,577.72 on behalf of Ernie Ward, a veterinarian running against state Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick. Rabon, who is also a veterinarian, was part of the Senate leadership that blocked puppy mill legislation backed by the Humane Society. Rabon easily won re-election.
- Patriot Majority PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based group better known for backing Democratic U.S. Senate candidates such as Kay Hagan, filed paperwork showing it launched direct mail pieces against several state House candidates, including Reps. Tom Murry, R-Wake, and Mike Stone, R-Lee, both of whom lost re-election bids Tuesday night. Three other legislative candidates targeted by the mailers – state Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, and Reps. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, and Susan Martin, R-Wilson – won re-election.
- The North Carolina Association of Realtors attempted to help several candidates at the last minute, including Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, who lost his re-election bid, and Rep. Paul Tine, D-Dare, who did win re-election.
- Page Communications, a company based in McLeansville, reported spending at least $6,000 on behalf of several judicial candidates, all of them Democrats running for state Supreme Court or Court of Appeals.
- The North Carolina Chamber bought cable ad time to support Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, who lost, and Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, who won. The chamber also did direct mail pieces on behalf of Moffitt, Barefoot, Murry and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.
- The NRA's Political Victory Fund reported spending on direct mail and phone banks to boost Murry, Moffitt, Jordan and several other Republicans, including state Sen. Wesley Meredith, R-Cumberland, who won his race.