Virginia Republicans are criticizing Democrats as hypocritical for sending a mailer listing a Latina House candidate among Halloween's "scariest threats," after months of accusing the GOP of racially insensitive advertising.
The mailer, funded by the Democratic Party of Virginia, features a black-and-white photo of Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak next to a werewolf and hockey mask under the text, "This Halloween season, protect your family from the scariest threats." The back of the mailer highlights Smoak's opposition to abortion rights and expanding Medicaid.
Mancheno-Smoak faces Democrat Kathy Tran to fill the House of Delegates seat being vacated by retiring Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax County).
"This hateful and offensive mail piece smeared a woman, who legally immigrated to this country, simply because she is running for office as a Republican," said Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who is set to become speaker if his party maintains a majority after the Nov. 7. "Considering the false attacks that Democrats have leveled against Republicans this election season, it's very hypocritical."
Democrats have accused Republicans of distributing racially charged mailers against their two Latina House candidates running in Prince William County. One featuring a dark-hooded figure says Hala Ayala supports restoring rights to "thugs, violent members and gang members" — a reference to her support for the restoration of rights to felons who have served their time. Another ties Elizabeth Guzman's support for driver's licenses for undocumented criminals to crime, including one featuring photos of bullet-ridden glass.
Katie Baker, a spokeswoman for the House Democratic Caucus, said those mailers were not comparable to the one against Mancheno-Smoak.
"We compared Lolita Mancheno-Smoak's policy positions to masks from the Halloween aisle at Target, while Republicans attacked Latina candidates with the words 'thugs, violent criminals, gang members and child predators' and images of bullet holes, guns and men in hoodies," said Baker.
Tran, who said she's running in part "to stand up to the most anti-immigrant, racist president of our time," bristled at the notion that her mailer was racist.
"This is a Halloween-themed mailer that explicitly uses the word 'Halloween'," Tran said in a statement. "The mailer highlights the frankly scary policies that my opponent supports that would threaten funding for schools, threaten access to affordable health care, and threaten funding for Planned Parenthood. This is what is at stake in our election."
But John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, suggested there was a double standard at play, tweeting "If the @VA_GOP did this we would be called racists instantly. It would be on @Morning_Joe, @maddow and all over @CNN."
His Democratic counterpart Susan Swecker replied, "I see you're mad we went after your two favorite Republicans: Jason and the Werewolf."
At the top of the ticket, Republican gubernatorial contender Ed Gillespie has been roundly criticized by Latino groups for a series of ad tying his opponent Ralph Northam to MS-13 gang violence.