As Virginia's heated gubernatorial election draws near, a Democratic group on Monday released an ad featuring a pickup truck flying a Confederate flag and sporting a bumper sticker for Republican Ed Gillespie chasing a group of minority children.
The minute-long spot from the Latino Victory Fund ends with the children waking up from a nightmare and adults watching footage on television of torch-bearing white nationalists marching in Charlottesville
"Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by the American Dream?" the narrator says.
The commercial, which the Latino Victory Fund says is airing through Election Day on Spanish-language stations in Richmond and Washington market, is the latest in a bitter battle on the airwaves.
Gillespie, a longtime GOP operative, has launched ads seeking to tie his Democratic opponent Ralph Northam to MS-13 gang violence and a sex offender who briefly got his rights restored. The Republican candidate has also launched commercials vowing to protect the state's Confederate monuments and warning that Northam supports their removal.
Gillespie's advertising has drawn a rebuke from minority advocacy groups, Democrats, and, in recent days, from some Republicans who see it as a departure from Gillespie's long-standing position that the GOP needs to reach out to nonwhite voters.
Northam retaliated with a statewide commercial blasting Gillespie's commercials as "false attacks" and "despicable." He also approved a Democratic mailer linking Gillespie to the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, urging voters to stand up to "Trump, Gillespie and hate."
Republicans blasted that mailer and accused Northam of exploiting the deadly violence in Charlottesville for political gain. They also note that Gillespie repeatedly condemned the white supremacists of Charlottesville.
But Democrats have responded that Gillespie's campaign has commercials have amplified stereotypes about Latinos and that the candidate never explicitly condemned President Trump's remarks that there were "very fine people on both sides" during the Charlottesville conflict between neo-Nazis and counter protesters.
"It's a very stark ad, but those portrayals in the ad are what Latino and immigrant communities feel right now in Virginia," Latino Victory Fund President Cristóbal J. Alex said. "If Gillespie is successful in scapegoating Latinos and borrowing from Trump's playbook, we will see those types of attacks against our community throughout the 2018 midterms."
Gillespie campaign manager Chris Leavitt called the ads from the Latino Victory Fund a "desperate smear campaign."
"Now his allies have reached a new low with a disgusting, vile television ad seeking to instill fear in our children with that same imagery," Leavitt said. "This is not an attack on Ed Gillespie anymore. This is an all-out attack on the people of Virginia. This latest ad gives a clear indication of just what Ralph Northam and his national Democratic allies think of all of us, and it's sickening."
A Northam campaign spokeswoman expressed no misgivings about the Latino Victory Fund ad.
"Independent groups are denouncing Ed Gillespie because he has run the most divisive, fear mongering campaign in modern history," said Ofirah Yheskel. "It is not shocking that communities of color are scared of what his Trump-like policy positions mean for them."
Gillespie spent Sunday campaigning with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) before a diverse crowd in a Vietnamese shopping center. Portman touted Gillespie's moderate positions on issues of addiction and criminal justice and defended him from critics disappointed by his ad campaign.
"He's a Republican reformer," Portman told the Post. "He goes everywhere, he'll talk to everybody. I think he'll be a national leader."