Ad wars in SD-38 reveal stunning hypocrisy

We are one month away from the 38th Senate District (SD) race in southwest Virginia.  If we can win, Republicans will have a 21-19 majority and Ralph Northam becomes a lame duck. The race pits Republican Delegate Ben Chafin against Democratic Tazewell County Supervisor Mike Hymes.

At a month out, it’s time for the ad wars.

Our friends over at Blue Virginia posted a long screed attacking an ad run by Middle Resolution PAC – not Ben Chafin – which they proceeded to pick apart “one slime-suckingly bad part at a slime-suckingly bad time.”  Um, yeah.

Anyway, here’s the ad:

The ad attacks President Obama and Governor McAuliffe for being anti-coal, and says the same Democrats who support those two are bankrolling Hymes’ campaign.  The message is simple – elect Hymes and you’re helping the anti-coal interests.  Blue Virginia thinks this is misleading. Why? Because Hymes is a coal company executive.

Hymes may be a coal company executive, but he’s also a member of the same political party that doesn’t want to see another coal fired power plant built in America.  It doesn’t matter how he’ll vote, because this race is about more than just Hymes – it’s about control of the Senate.  The only way to really be sure the anti-coal interests don’t win is to ensure the Democrats don’t control the Senate.

It’s also comical to see the BV crew get upset about an ad attacking Democrats for being anti-coal when they are the drum majors of the anti-coal parade.  The contempt for voters in Appalachia who keep voting for coal drips from the piece.  Talking down to the folks in Appalachia and telling them they just aren’t smart enough to know what’s good for them . . . well, that’s not exactly the best way to win hearts, minds or votes in coal country.  The last thing my people (my maternal family is all proudly in the 38th) want is being lectured to by yankees.

If BV wants to go after Middle Resolution’s ad, they should probably pay a little more attention to the ads coming from Hymes’ campaign – his first ad should win an Oscar for political hypocrisy.  It’s a DC style attack ad on Ben Chafin.  The issue?  The new General Assembly Building (GAB) in Richmond, and a ridiculous claim that Chafin somehow was trying to divert tax money for schools to pay for it.

Here’s Hyme’s ad.

Attacking on the GAB replacement building is a time honored tradition in Virginia politics (we used it quite at bit in 2011) but the attack here doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Let’s take a leaf from BV’s book and pick this ad apart one slime-suckingly bad part at a slime-suckingly bad time. Or something.

First, the only vote on the new GAB was in the caboose bill on the budget this year, HB 5001.  In the bill, there was a variety of planning money allocated for capital projects at state institutions around Virginia, including the Capitol complex, but there was no specific line item for the GAB.  Take a look at paragraph E1 here, and section H2 here.  There was never a stand-alone vote taken on the GAB replacement or the overall plans for the Capitol complex, even though there was wide bipartisan support for getting something done.   So an ad saying he voted specifically for the GAB is fundamentally misleading.  Even if you want to say he did, given the awful state of the GAB, it would be hard to fault anybody for voting in favor of replacing it.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this photo tour the Richmond Times-Dispatch has up.

HB 5001 was passed early in the special session, and was signed by the Governor a few days later.  Despite the larger debate on the budget, the caboose bill wasn’t controversial – that’s why it passed 82-13 in the House and 32-3 in the Senate.  19 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor and the only reason why it wasn’t unanimous on the Democratic side is Toddy Puller wasn’t there.  Mike Hymes’ #1 donor so far in this race is the Senate Democratic Caucus.

That’s right – Virginia’s Senate Democrats are spending tens of thousands of dollars running ads attacking Ben Chafin for something they all voted for.

Virginia has a $75 billion biennial budget.  Using the logic of this ad, any item that isn’t specific to education means we’ve put that item above the good of our children.  If that’s the case, Mike Hymes has some explaining to do.  Tazewell County’s FY 15 budget, which Hymes voted for, includes only $13.5 million for public education, out of a $51 million total budget.  Should the Democrats be running ads asking why Hymes voted to put over $37 million in other spending above the good of our children?

Contrasting the glossy negative campaigning from Mike Hymes’ DC style handlers, Ben Chafin’s first ad is a positive, biographical ad from somebody the folks in Pulaski, Tazewell and the rest of SD-38 already know.

Here it is – and it’s a good one.

As for education, Ben Chafin was endorsed by the VEA in 2013 and the VEA hasn’t taken a position on this race, which is unusual given the stakes.  That’s probably because he carried the budget amendment that gave teachers a 6% pay raise.  Attacking him on education is weak.  The whole attack ad was weak – the kind of attack that looks good on paper, but leaves people scratching their heads when they look at it twice.

This is the race everyone is paying attention to on August 19, and the folks in SD-38 can expect to see even more ads over the next month.  Let’s hope that Hymes gets out of the mud and stops listening to the DC crew handling his media.

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