WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The congressional candidates here are both first-timers, both Jewish — in a predominantly Jewish district — and both have served in the Florida state legislature.
Democrat Lois Frankel and Republican Adam Hasner both have also raised just shy of $3 million for their closely-contested campaign.
But only Hasner is running an ad starring a woman sitting on a toilet.
The woman in the ad first mentions two well-reported facts about Frankel: That she received a 40 percent pay raise over the course of her two terms and once used a police helicopter to get from one end of the city to another in hopes of avoiding rush-hour traffic:
Then the woman notes that “Frankel spent over $13,000 in taxpayer money on a marble shower in a private bathroom — with her own toilet. What a waste. All the money right down the drain for her own personal use.”
Then the woman flushes the toilet and says: “When you gotta go, you gotta go, but that’s just ridiculous.”
The ad ends with a banner that reads: “Lois Frankel: She’s Gotta Go.”
Hasner’s ad closely resembles a separate ad paid for by the super PAC run by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Brad Herold, a Hasner campaign spokesman, called the ad “a light-hearted look at a very serious issue,” adding later, “Everything in the ad is true and has been documented by various media outlets.”
Joshua Heinrich Karp, a Frankel campaign spokesman, called the ad “a lie and we think it’s downright disgusting. I think it stinks of a desperate campaign.”
(Karp also faulted 2chambers for calling attention to the ad and suggested that Hasner produced the ad in order to earn free media attention for an otherwise struggling campaign. But that’s exactly why #5in5 is highlighting the ad — to demonstrate how congressional candidates across the country are running for office, no matter the means they use.)
For her part, Frankel defended her mayoralty by highlighting increased economic growth and reduced crime.
“The city is much more beautiful, cleaner, safer, more vibrant and more people moved in,” she said.
In a recent interview, Frankel said that the greatest complement for her tenure came from her son, a U.S. Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and then moved home to open a restaurant, called The Blind Monk.
“I don’t think he ever believed that he would come back and live here in West Palm Beach,” Frankel said. “But he said, what a great city this has become and I’m going to put down my roots.”
Florida’s 22nd Congressional District is an open seat this year because incumbent Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) moved north instead of fighting for reelection in a redrawn district with a Democratic voter enrollment edge. (More on him Wednesday.)
With West out of the race, voters appear to be evenly split, according to a series of partisan and automated polls — surveys that don’t necessarily give the most accurate representation of the district.
Frankel, 64, said West was the reason she decided to run for Congress.
“I just thought that he represented the epitome of tea party paralysis,” Frankel said. “I decided that I was at a point in my life where I had the experience” to run.
Hasner initially launched a campaign last year against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), but he dropped out after Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) surged to the top of the GOP field. At a debate last week, Hasner tried raising more questions about Frankel, noting that she accepted $20,000 in donations from executives of a visual effects company that received $12 million in city funds to build a downtown facility. The company, Digital Domain, filed for bankruptcy last month and the city is now fighting in federal court to reclaim the funds.
Frankel said she is donating the $20,000 in donations to a nonprofit group helping low-income students.
“When people get to know me and Lois Frankel, we’re going to get people on our side,” Hasner said in an interview. He faulted his opponent for using “scare tactics and blame and finger-pointing” to win and said he’s focused on providing “specific ideas and solutions” to bolster the economy.
Outside political groups are spending a little more than $1 million on this race, according to spending data from the Federal Election Commission. In addition to Cantor’s YG Action Fund, Hasner is being helped by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Frankel’s efforts are backed by the House Majority PAC, which is running ads against Hasner.
This race is considered a “lean Democratic” contest, giving Frankel a strong edge, according to The Washington Post House Race tracker. It also ranks as 14th on The Fix’s 60 most important House races, meaning it is among several districts that could switch parties this year.