Under the Dome

Republican uses NAACP head as foil in TV ads

A series of four advertisements for a Republican’s state Senate campaign feature an unlikely star: the outspoken Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP.

The 30-second spots for Rep. Andy Wells of Hickory, who is running for Senate in Catawba and Alexander counties, are all similar. The ads begin with a calm Wells, saying, “You know, once the political rant starts, civil debate ends.” (See one ad below.)

Then, each ad moves to different video of Barber speaking exuberantly at a Moral Monday rally last year.

In one ad, Barber says Gov. Pat McCrory “better get on the right side of history.” In another, he calls the Republican-led General Assembly “power-drunk” and “extreme.”

The ads then cut back to Wells, who says, “That’s pure posturing, but here’s a simple fact: Republicans cut taxes and cut spending to create jobs. I’m Andy Wells.” The spots end with more footage of Barber, the main organizer of the “Moral Monday” protests against the General Assembly.

Wells said two of the ads are running on cable channels in Catawba and Alexander counties were intended to introduce him to voters and raise the question of how political debates in North Carolina should be conducted. “At what point do we debate issues on their merits, and at what point do we move into name-calling?” Wells said Thursday.

On Thursday, Wells tweeted a link to one of the ads with the words: “To solve problems, we need serious debates not more finger pointing and name calling.” Barber couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday through a spokeswoman.

Wells won’t need to keep running the ads. He was elected by default Friday when no Republicans and Democrats filed to challenge for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Austin Allran. But the message – don’t be surprised if other Republican candidates use it too.