In new Arkansas ad, Dems tar Republican gubernatorial candidate as an insider

Sometimes past experience is a bad thing.

In a new TV ad that will begin airing in Arkansas Wednesday morning, a group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association seeks to paint Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman and George W. Bush administration official, as a Washington insider who’s trying to hide his ties to Beltway lobbying. At the same time, the ad promotes Democrat Mike Ross as an independent who has voted against raising his own salary and for a balanced budget amendment, a policy conservatives support.

The ad, launched by the DGA-affiliated organization Jobs and Opportunity, serves as a 30-second microcosm of the race for governor in Arkansas: one in which two men are locked in battle over which is the real insider. Republicans want to make the race a referendum on the Democratic Party and President Obama, who is unpopular there. Democrats hope to paint Hutchinson as more of a lobbyist than an Arkansan. The few available polls show a competitive race to replace outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe (D).

The new Democratic ad, “Independent,” will air in most of the state, including in the Little Rock, Ft. Smith, and Jonesboro markets. It kicks off by labeling Hutchinson a “D.C. lobbyist,” and accuses him of attacking Ross in order to hide his own record of working for a firm that profited from Beltway lobbying. Hutchinson has worked for Venable, a law firm that lobbies Congress.

“Hutchinson wants to hide the fact that his lobbying firm made millions from corporations pushing the Wall Street and Detroit Bailouts — even a stimulus bill,” a narrator says in a voiceover.

The ad goes on to describe Ross in opposition to that, as an independent congressman who voted against lawmaker pay raises and fought for a balanced budget amendment. It concludes with a voiceover: “Mike Ross, independent just like Arkansas.”

In a recent ad, Republicans sought to tie Ross to D.C. in a slightly different way, by linking him to the Democratic establishment and repeatedly stating the things that “Obama, [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi and Ross” have all voted for. It, too, accuses Ross of supporting the Wall Street and Detroit bailouts. Ross has counterpoints he can point to—he’s voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 19 times— and he still has the upper hand financially. Last year, he raised more than $3.6 million, double Hutchinson’s haul.


Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross at a Little Rock, Ark., news conference Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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