Two national Republican groups this week rolled out new attack ads on Democrat Deborah Ross, both targeting her tenure at the American Civil Liberties Union.
$16 million outside political spending has poured into the Burr-Ross race
Ross, a former lawmaker and lobbyist from Raleigh, is running against two-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-Winston-Salem, N.C.
In recent months, Ross has chipped away at Burr’s initial double-digit lead in the race.
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The two Ross attack ads from Washington D.C.-based Republican organizations – pushed out less than a month before Election Day – signal the competitiveness of Senate race and make clear the party is trying to help its down-ballot candidates even as presidential nominee Donald Trump slides in the polls. Outside political spending for and against both Burr and Ross in North Carolina now totals about $16 million, according to OpenSecrets.org.
One ad, from the Senate Leadership Fund, hammers on Ross and the ACLU for not providing legal help to a military veteran whose neighborhood developer told him he couldn’t have a flag pole with the American flag in his yard.
Ross will have to explain to the roughly 775,000 veterans in North Carolina ... why she would allow someone to destroy our country’s flag, but won’t stand up for someone who wants to fly it.
Jesse Hunt, Burr campaign spokesman
The ad charges Ross puts her “left-wing politics” ahead of North Carolina values. It will air on TV as part of a $9 million advertising buy for several ads.
McClatchy reported in August about the 15-year-old flag flap. Soon after the issue arose, the veteran was able to get neighborhood covenants changed so he could fly the flag without the ACLU’s help. Still, Burr’s camp tied the issue back to Ross’ support for the right to burn the American flag as a form of constitutional free speech.
“Ross will have to explain to the roughly 775,000 veterans in North Carolina – all of whom admirably signed on the dotted line to defend the flag and what it stands for – and other American patriots why she would allow someone to destroy our country’s flag, but won’t stand up for someone who wants to fly it,” said Burr campaign spokesman Jesse Hunt in August.
In response, Ross told McClatchy: “Flag burning is plain wrong, and I’ll stand up for free speech – even speech I don’t like.”
Although some of the veterans’ letters asking for legal help were addressed to Ross, it appears Ross did not personally respond to his request. Her campaign has said she does not remember the case.
Ross’ time at the ACLU both as the executive director of the North Carolina chapter and as an attorney has been a common theme of attacks from Burr’s campaign and Republican groups. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) runs a site called “Radical Ross” and GOP strategists have peeled off as campaign fodder select cases from Ross’ ACLU time.
A new NRSC ad out Monday features a sinister soundtrack and tells the story of a 13-year-old boy from North Carolina convicted of raping and beating his neighbor while her young child was in the room. The defendant, Andre Green, was sentenced to life in prison.
The ad claims Ross “chose to defend” Green and fought for him to be tried as a juvenile.
In the 1994 case, Ross was not an attorney for Green but did file a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the ACLU. The brief argued Green’s criminal case shouldn’t be transferred to court to be tried as an adult.
At the time Green was indicted, a crime like the one he was convicted of – classified as first-degree sexual assault – carried a mandatory life sentence in North Carolina. Simultaneously, Green’s case was the first to unfold in court under a new law that allowed 13 year olds to be tried as adults. The state law was changed from age 14 to 13.
Ross’ involvement in the case, her campaign says, was leading the ACLU in challenging whether it would be unjust to hand down a life sentence to Green, who was mentally-challenged and had no previous criminal history. Ross’ amicus briefs on the case acknowledged Green had committed a “very serious” crime but questioned whether he should be tried as an adult.
An advocate for domestic and sexual violence victims, Lisa Angel, refuted the NRSC ad in a statement sent by the Ross campaign Monday. Angel, a former chair of the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission, called Ross a champion for survivors of violence and said “It’s sad that a political attack would try to tarnish her strong record.”
The ad paints Ross as sympathetic to criminals but her campaign retorts she voted for changes in state law to stiffen penalties for people found guilty of sexual abuse and crimes against children.
Both Burr’s campaign and the NRSC have attacked Ross’ ACLU record as “dangerous.”