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National Republican group launches TV ad campaign aimed at flipping Virginia House seats

Del. Chris L. Hurst (D- Montgomery) at a special legislative session on gun issues in 2019. Hurst is being challenged by Republican Jason Ballard in the Blacksburg-area district.
Del. Chris L. Hurst (D- Montgomery) at a special legislative session on gun issues in 2019. Hurst is being challenged by Republican Jason Ballard in the Blacksburg-area district. (Steve Helber/AP)

RICHMOND — A national Republican group is launching a major TV advertising campaign in six House of Delegates districts around Virginia this week, underlining the high stakes of this fall's battle for control in Richmond.

With all 100 House seats on the November ballot and Democrats defending a 55-45 advantage, the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC is targeting districts seen as vulnerable to being flipped.

Republicans nationally are keen on gaining ground in Virginia, which trended increasingly blue during the Trump administration. In addition to the House races, the state is one of only two electing a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general this year. With similar races in deep-blue New Jersey not seen as competitive, Virginia is a key warm-up for next year’s congressional elections nationwide.

In this rural Virginia district, a young Republican turns toward Trump in faceoff against BLM supporter

The RSLC’s new ads — coming unusually early in the district election cycle — amount to a “six-figure” campaign, though a spokesman for the group declined to be more specific. They kick off what the organization said is a broader, $1 million “joint paid media effort” in cooperation with the GOP’s Virginia House Campaign Caucus that will target a total of 12 districts around the state.

The ads are aimed at tying Democrats in Richmond to those in Washington.

“Because of Democrat-controlled Washington, everything costs more, irreparable harm is being caused to the futures of our children, and families are being put at risk; and radical liberals in the Virginia’s House of Delegates are pouring gasoline on the fire,” RSLC President Dee Duncan said in a news release accompanying the rollout of the ads.

The Washington Post was provided an advance look at the ads on the condition that the information not be released until Monday morning, when the campaigns were to get underway.

Later Monday, the Democratic Party of Virginia blasted the RSLC as funding the ads with untraceable “dark money” and said the GOP is on the “wrong side” of important issues.

“From building a stronger economy and lifting up working families, to protecting voting rights and investing in infrastructure, our Democratic majority has delivered for the commonwealth,” DPVA spokesman Manuel Bonder said via email. “While Democrats remain laser focused on building a better future for all Virginians, the GOP wants to drag us backwards.”

All of the ads feature images of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and all but one are airing in swing districts that Democrats wrested from Republicans after President Donald Trump took office in 2017. The exception is the Sussex County seat held since 2005 by Del. Roslyn C. Tyler, the only Black Democrat in the House representing a rural district in Southside Virginia, which tends to be conservative.

That ad invokes street violence in Portland and Chicago to suggest that Tyler is “anti-police” and “weak on crime.” It charges that she is backed by a “radical, liberal group that pushed to defund the police” — a group that an RSLC spokesman identified as Future Now. According to its website, that national organization favors policies such as prohibiting the rehiring of police officers with records of misconduct and seeking alternatives to incarceration. It does not specifically mention defunding the police.

An RSLC spokesman on Monday backed up the claim by citing language that had been on the Future Now website in January 2021 — but is not there currently — that called for “reallocating” some police funding toward programs to reduce crime.

Tyler is running against Republican Otto Wachsmann.

Another ad targets two-term Del. Chris L. Hurst (D-Montgomery), who is being challenged by Republican Jason Ballard in the Blacksburg-area district. Saying Democrats are trying to “destroy education as we know it,” the ad accuses Hurst of being “weak” for agreeing with teachers’ unions about delaying school reopenings during the pandemic and for opposing a ban on critical race theory.

Another ad aims at first-term Del. Alex Askew (D-Virginia Beach) and accuses him of being a “radical liberal” for voting to increase the state’s gasoline tax. He’s running against Republican Karen Greenhalgh.

The other three districts being targeted by the new television campaign are in House District 10, where incumbent Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke) faces GOP challenger Nick Clemente; House District 21, with Del. Kelly K. Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) facing Republican Tanya Gould; and House District 28, where Del. Joshua G. Cole (D-Fredericksburg) is running against Republican Tara Durant.