With Election Day just five weeks away, one 9th District Republican has gone on TV to ridicule Democrats and cast himself as a solid ally of President Donald Trump.
State Sen. Dan Bishop has become the first of 10 GOP candidates on TV in the district that stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville. And according to rivals, he may be the only candidate on the air, at least for a while.
In what his campaign calls “a substantial six-figure” cable buy, Bishop has launched an ad called “Clowns.” It opens with him standing next to rocking, inflatable clowns with the faces of Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Dan McCready, the 9th District Democratic candidate.
“These crazy liberal clowns,” Bishop says. “The things they say. The way they act. What they believe. They’re not funny. They’re downright scary . . . I’ll go to Washington and fight these clowns for you.”
A narrator goes on to say that Bishop supports Trump’s border wall, gun rights and “our values.”
Other candidates in the May 14 primary downplay Bishop’s presence on the air.
“I’m glad he’s spending his money on something,” said Stony Rushing, a Union County commissioner who said he has no plans for TV.
Rushing said he’s reaching voters through mailings and social media as well as by personal campaigning, where he emphasizes his connections to most of the district’s eight counties.
Matthew Ridenhour, a former Mecklenburg County commissioner, said he’s also relying on social media and mailers. Television, he said, is “just not part of our strategy.”
“Television is a shotgun approach, it gets you in front of a lot of eyeballs who aren’t going to vote in this election,” he said. “I made a commitment to our donors that we would spend our dollars wisely and we’re doing that with a laser-like focus on each of the . . . targeted voters throughout the Ninth.”
Campaign finance reports for the candidates are due Monday. On Tuesday, McCready’s campaign released his numbers: He raised $1.6 million from January through March and has nearly $1.5 million on hand.
That’s expected to be far more than any of the Republican candidates. For many, money will determine their strategy for reaching voters.
Leigh Brown of Harrisburg is still trying to raise money while personally getting around the district. “Her strategy is to reach out to voters based on the money she raises,” said consultant Chris Sinclair.
The 10 Republicans are vying in an election expected to attract a fraction of the district’s 154,000 Republican voters. They’ll all have to energize their own supporters to turn out.
“Using attacks on the left to generate enthusiasm is a smart thing,” said GOP strategist Paul Shumaker, who is not working for any of the candidates. But none of the candidates, he said, can ignore the election fraud allegations that forced the special election or the more recent indictments of party Chairman Robin Hayes and a top donor.
“You have to be prepared to deal with the dark clouds cast over Republicans given the recent scandals,” Shumaker said. “Whoever emerges is going to have to deal with (them).”