Daily Press (Sunday)

Attack ads


Cayce Myers, a public relations professor at Virginia Tech, said it’s a notable shift for Virginia.

“Virginia in the last election cycles was a red state that turned into a blue state that is now a purple state,” he said. “That purple-ness — that polarized 50/50 split — makes the stakes much higher. So I think in Virginia politics we’re seeing negative campaignin­g increase because the legislatur­e, the governor, those races are much more competitiv­e.”

Myers, who focuses on political communicat­ion, said aggressive attack ads can be effective.

“Negative ads are used because it works,” he said. “People say they don’t like them, but people do pay attention to them.”

Mason/Diggs race

In Hampton Roads, a new TV commercial from Sen. Monty Mason’s campaign drew ire from the Virginia Police Benevolent Associatio­n.

Mason, a Democrat, faces Republican Danny Diggs, who served as the York County-Poquoson sheriff for decades before retiring last year. The two are in a fiercely contested race to represent Senate District 24, which includes Poquoson, Williamsbu­rg, York County and parts of Newport News and James City County.

The commercial in question features images of armed militia members, protesters at the Unite the Right white nationalis­t rally in Charlottes­ville in 2017, and a photo of former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio.

It also includes a photo of Diggs at a pro-gun rights rally outside the capitol building in Richmond on Jan. 20, 2020. The event was held to protest new gun safety legislatio­n that Democrats — who then held a majority in both chambers — had vowed to pass, including red flag laws and universal background checks.

“You learn a lot about

Sen. Monty Mason speaks during a debate with Danny Diggs, his opponent in the upcoming election for the 24th District state Senate seat, last month.

someone by the company they keep and the company surroundin­g Danny Diggs (is) Proud Boys, militias and hate groups,” a voiceover says.

The 2020 rally was organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. It drew thousands of attendees, including some armed militia groups and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, but crowds were peaceful.

Diggs spoke at the event, telling the crowd the government was trying to take away rights given to them by God.

“I’m from Yorktown where we struggled against a tyrannical government and gained our independen­ce,” Diggs said. “It’s been about 240 years and we are now faced with tyranny again. We should not have to struggle to win our freedom.”

The campaign commercial further asserted that “as sheriff, Diggs even met with leaders of a white supremacis­t group” and cites a 2002 article from the Daily Press. The article referenced was entitled “York Sheriff’s Office says it’s ready for racist group” and was regarding the sheriff ’s office meeting up with the World Church of the Creator — a white supremacis­t group — to go over rules the organizati­on would need to follow during an upcoming protest it was holding in Hampton

“Virginia in the last election cycles was a red state that turned into a blue state that is now a purple state. That purple-ness — that polarized 50/50 split — makes the stakes much higher.

So I think in Virginia politics we’re seeing negative campaignin­g increase because the legislatur­e, the governor, those races are much more competitiv­e.”


In an interview with the Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot, Diggs said the article incorrectl­y stated that he met with the organizati­on when he had actually sent a member of his staff.

Either way, Diggs said the campaign commercial’s implicatio­n that anyone with the sheriff’s office

met with the group due to a personal associatio­n was an “outright lie” as the meeting was only held to address public safety concerns.

“I had staff meet with those people as a responsibi­lity of our law enforcemen­t authority,” Diggs said.

In a news release this month, the Virginia Police Benevolent Associatio­n shared “disgust” over the ad.

“When confronted with a radical protest in his jurisdicti­on, Diggs chose the route of diplomacy rather than to let conflict rule the day,” said Sean McGowan, the associatio­n executive

director. “… It is blatantly clear that Monty Mason is slinging political mud.”

In a statement, Mason’s c a m p a i g n m a n a g e r defended the commercial.

“Our new ad exposes Mr. Diggs’ disturbing track record as a featured speaker at an extremist rally with designated hate groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers,

— Cayce Myers, public relations professor at Virginia Tech

and other dangerous militias,” Maddie Summers said. “Every claim made in both of our most recent ads is backed up by citations from trusted local news sources, including WAVY and the Daily Press.”

Other attack ads

In Henrico County, residents may have been startled this month to receive mailers from the Republican Party of Virginia with the word “explicit” scrolled across it.

Susanna Gibson, a Democrat running in House District 57, garnered national headlines last month when it came to light she had performed sex acts with her husband for a pornograph­ic website. The mailers, labeled with a warning that only those 18 or older should open it, contained quotes and screenshot­s from her livestream­ed videos, NBC affiliate WBBT-TV in Richmond reported.

In response, Gibson’s campaign released a statement accusing the Virginia GOP of “trying to distract voters from their extreme agenda to ban abortion, defund schools, and allow violent criminals to access weapons of war.”

Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said the mailers showed that Republican­s and Gov. Glenn Youngkin didn’t understand the importance of consent.

“Revenge porn is a crime and that includes in politics,” she wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

In a text message, RPV Chair Rich Anderson said nothing in the mailers had been “leaked” by Republican­s because it was using material already published in mainstream media news accounts, as well as Gibson’s “own public words as documented via the videos.”

Anderson said the mailers did not contain pornograph­ic images or words. He did not respond to a question about why the envelopes were labeled with a warning.

Youngkin spokespers­on Macaulay Porter declined to


In a heated race to represent Senate District 17, Del. Emily Brewer’s campaign resurrecte­d a two-decades old criminal charge against opponent Clint Jenkins. Brewer, a Republican, ran a commercial calling him a “domestic abuser” due to allegation­s he choked his daughter.

Court records from Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court show Jenkins, a Democrat, was charged with misdemeano­r assault and battery of a family or household member in 2004. Several months after the case was filed, court records show a judge dismissed it.

Brewer previously said she believed the charges and there was nothing wrong with being direct in a campaign ad.

Jenkins responded to Brewer’s ad with a commercial featuring his daughter, Ashlin, who calls Brewer’s remarks “bold-faced lies tearing down an innocent man.”

Alex Keena, assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonweal­th University, said it’s not unusual for attack ads to increase at this stage in the election cycle.

But he said there does appear to be more than usual, which he believes is partially due to many candidates having significan­t campaign funds at their disposal.

“There is a ton of money pouring in,” said Keena, adding it makes the state’s loose campaign finance laws all the more concerning.

Although tens of millions are spent on campaign ads, Keena said he hasn’t seen evidence that hitting voters with a barrage of attack ads actually helps a candidate. In today’s highly polarized political climate, he suspects most voters already know who they support and won’t be dissuaded by a flyer or commercial.

“I think everyone who is going to vote has made up their mind,” he said. “It’s amazing to me to see the amount of money being raised and spent on a handful of voters who are undecided.”

Katie King, katie.king @virginiame­dia.com

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Brewer
Brewer Jenkins

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States