NC Senate candidates decry attack ads

Posted September 19, 2014

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis

— Pity the poor U.S. Senate candidate.

It's a nasty business being on the receiving end of slings and arrows from not only your opponents, but third-party groups bankrolled by often undisclosed donors.

"I'm Kay Hagan, and you've seen a lot about me lately," the incumbent Democrat says in her campaign's latest U.S. Senate commercial, which began running Thursday. "Out-of-state special interests are spending millions distorting my record."

Meanwhile, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Hagan's Republican challenger, takes aim at Hagan for her ads that attack the state lawmaker over state education funding.

"One of my first elections happened in a public school – president of the PTA," Tillis says in his ad. "Sen. Hagan's ads don't tell you that. Her whole campaign is built on falsehoods."

Yes, this is a campaign commercial decrying negative ads that itself is going negative.

While those of us who are deluged with news releases and campaign ads of all stripes might be tempted to say, "Oh, toughen up," there might be some strategy behind the woe-is-me messaging.

"We've had two elections in a row with just huge amounts of money spent on ads," said Carter Wrenn, a veteran Republican political consultant.

Many of those commercials have been negative, and that's wearing on the electorate, Wrenn said.

"It's driving up people's dislike of politicians generally, and people have a healthy dose of skepticism about anything they see on television to do with politics," he said.

Wrenn said that both Hagan and Tillis may be trying to ride that wave of skepticism. The message of the ads, he said, are "Those mean ol' politicians are attacking me."

Although both Tillis and Hagan are politicians in their own right, they're trying to separate themselves from the fray.

Wrenn said polling from the past year shows that voters "don't like all the howling and finger pointing. They don't mind debating the issues; they just don't like the mess." 

Tillis and Hagan are using these latest ads to convince voters that they're not part of the mess.


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  • lprop Sep 24, 2014

    I don't believe that there is a perfect so called politician . It takes a group of people to look at a problem with the interest and concern of the taxpayers in mind to come to a reasonable conclusion. The first debate was more like two children telling the parents what the other one had done. Do they really think the majority of the public want to hear this? Tell us what you are about and really want to do other than what we already know. Just be adults.

  • tracmister Sep 23, 2014

    Neither one of these candidates can run on anything but attacks ads. The campaign really comes down to which one will do the least amount of damage to the people. Based on classroom sizes, a fraction of raises for most teachers, and a continued assault on public education; the edge in the most damaging candidates goes to Tillis.

  • Danny22 Sep 23, 2014

    It is disturbing that the CEO of WRAL is a large Kay Hagan donor. You can hardly find a fair news outlet anymore.

  • SaveEnergyMan Sep 23, 2014

    I wonder how many political ads in the last year have gotten the "green" light from WRAL. Red light ads should be pulled by the TV stations for the lies and slander they represent.

    Unfortunately, people will hear what they want to hear and will jump to conclusions based on half-truths and deceptive claims. There are only two truths in elections today: 1) the weakest part of any democracy is the person standing at the poll booth. 2) the only ones to make out are the people who write, produce, and publish/broadcast political ads.

  • Bill Gibson Sep 22, 2014
    user avatar

    Didn't NC teachers have a problem with the Tillis lead Republican Party for most of the time? Budget cuts that affected NC education deeply. Looked like they were intentionally trying to get rid of long-time educators so they could give a pay incentive to new teachers. And, some blog commenters actually called those teachers "whiners". Made me go "blind white" with anger when I read that comment.

  • caronia49 Sep 22, 2014

    What has Kay Hagan done for NC and this Country in the last 6 years???? Why does she not run in her record, and everyone knows the answer, she has done nothing but be a puppet to Obama and Harry Reid...As for the Unmoral Monday protesters helping anyone, all I can say is they are a disgrace to our State.

  • Paul Donovan Sep 22, 2014
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    Kay Hagan decrying attack ads is laughable. She and her supporteres have done nothing but use attack ads against Tillis for almost a year now with unsubstantiated claims that have proven to be false. Guess what ? Just because the N&O publishes something doesn't make it true. This is an old political trick when you have the media in your pocket. They publish falsehoods and then they get propagated with political hack citing the falsehoods as their reference.

  • TheCape Sep 22, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Sean Haugh debating Thom Tillis. Hopefully Hagan will bother to show up.


  • Charlie Watkins Sep 22, 2014
    user avatar

    Kay Hagan will win the race because of the Moral Monday efforts across the state. Rev. Barber has exposed the wizard and Thom Tillis is reeling from the constant pressure brought by Moral Monday.

    I believe it was Moral Monday that won the election for Kay Hagan. There was nothing Tillis could do when Rev. Barber exposed the truth about the NC General Assembly and their abysmal record.

  • Charlie Watkins Sep 20, 2014
    user avatar

    I think Rev. Barber's Moral Monday has done more damage to Tillis than any attack ad. Rev. Barber's group has campaigned across the state over the excesses of Tillis' General Assembly. In the end I think Rev. Barber's Moral Monday will be the primary reason that Tillis lost the Senate race.

    Rev. Barber's Moral Monday was a stroke of political genius. And it was cheap and incessant.