Though many races around the country have seen an increase in negative campaign ads in the last few days before the election, one in North Carolina has caught the attention of the national media, including outlets such as CNN, Fox News, and the Huffington Post.
United States Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, began running an ad this week that accuses her Democratic opponent, North Carolna State Sen. Kay Hagan, of being “godless”.
Dole’s add refers to a September fundraiser Hagan attended at the home of Wendy Kaminer and Woody Kaplan, members of the Secular Coalition of America. Kaplan is also a member of the Godless Americans PAC. The group states supporting candidates who do not believe in God as one of its objectives, along with removing references to God from the Pledge of Allegiance and U. S. currency.
The group also works to support candidates who believe in a separation of church and state, regardless of those specific candidates’ religious beliefs. The ad features a picture of Hagan and a voice-over of another woman, not Hagan, saying, “There is no God.”
The Hagan campaign has expressed outrage, threatening to file for a “cease-and-desist-order” against Dole if the ad doesn’t stop running.
Prominent Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins called Dole’s ad “desperate” on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” show, saying that the Senator should be ashamed of herself.
Negative TV ads are not new to North Carolina Senate races. Former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms produced a famous TV ad in 1990 titled “White Hands,” showing a white worker crumpling up a job rejection notice and blaming it on minority quotas.
This isn’t the first time that Dole has been accused of unsavory campaign tactics. Early on in Dole’s ultimately successful 2002 Senate run, she was the target of a Democrat-funded ad criticizing her participation in a fundraiser hosted by former Enron CEO Ken Lay. Dole’s campaign later donated money to a fund for jobless former Enron employees.
The “Godless” ad is only one in a series of negative campaign ads in the Dole-Hagan face off. An earlier pro-Hagan ad funded by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee features two elderly men sitting on a porch in rocking chairs arguing about whether Dole is 92 or 93. Dole’s campaign complained that the ad was ageist, although the ad does ultimately explain that the numbers refer to Dole voting with Bush 92% of the time, and being ranked 93 in effectiveness out of 100 Senators by an outside agency.
Despite widespread shock in response to Dole’s recent ad, the trend toward mudslinging isn’t new, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.
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