A new TV ad supporting N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds is likely to get stuck in your head, but it’s not sponsored by Edmunds’ re-election campaign.
“Bob, Bob, Bob Edmunds – for Supreme Court judge!” a barbershop quartet sings as a variety of people sing along while cleaning things. “Tough but fair.”
“Tired of negative ads?” a balding man in a bathrobe asks before the song begins. “Judge Bob Edmunds is a good guy. He’s keeping it honest, fair and clean.”
The ad appears to be a response to an anti-Edmunds ad that began airing last week, drawing criticism from the N.C. Republican Party that it featured “race baiting.” That ad slammed Edmunds for upholding congressional districts that were later struck down by a federal court as racial gerrymanders.
Both the gerrymandering ad and the barbershop quartet ad were funded by outside groups, and there’s little public information available about who funded them – a sign that the biggest players in this year’s N.C. Supreme Court election could be shadowy donors.
The pro-Edmunds ad is sponsored by a group formed last month called Fair Judges. As of Wednesday, state elections records did not list any donors to the group. The only name listed on records is Amy Ellis, the group's treasurer and sister of former GOP legislator Patrick Ballantine. The address listed for the group is a mailbox inside a UPS store in North Raleigh. Ellis could not be reached.
It’s unclear exactly how much money is being spent on the ad, but FCC records indicate the group has spent nearly $148,000 booking airtime on a single Charlotte TV station. The ad will air 49 times on WBTV between now and the election.
Ellis also served as treasurer for a similar outside group, N.C. Judicial Coalition, that spent big on ads backing Republican Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby.
Those ads – featuring a bluegrass singer crooning that Newby was a “tough old judge, respected everywhere” – also got stuck in the heads of many voters. He was re-elected in 2012.