A new TV ad released Tuesday morning by Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock is drawing criticism from the top elected official in his own party: Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
"I've never bought into the notion that negative campaigning is something Vermonters necessarily want to see," Scott says. "I'm sure there's some portions of the ad that are accurate. It's, I guess, the innuendos. It just seems a little over-the-top to me. I'm not comfortable with that kind of thing."
Brock's 30-second ad brutally slams his Democratic opponent, Gov. Peter Shumlin, on everything from land deals to out-of-state travel to "thousands of taxpayer dollars spent to settle undisclosed discrimination and misconduct allegations."
Here, watch it for yourself:
Scott says he first saw the ad during an editorial board meeting with the Barre/Montpelier Times-Argus and the Rutland Herald Tuesday afternoon. He says it reminded him of the nasty 2010 gubernatorial campaign between Shumlin and former lieutenant governor Brian Dubie.
Scott was particularly troubled by the ad's final allegation, which refers to a recent public records request Brock filed seeking to obtain records "related to any claim or allegation of misconduct, discrimination, wrongful discharge or sexual harassment" in state government. Brock subsequently said he was particularly interested in "any involving [Shumlin] or his staff."
The ad hints that Shumlin is trying to cover up payments made to settle allegations of misconduct, when his administration is actually in the midst of complying with Brock's request, which was only filed last Thursday.
"It was the cover-up portion that hit me," Scott said. "I'm not sure what the cover-up is. And that's a pretty significant statement. A government cover-up. That's pretty big. I think you'd better be ready to back it up with facts."
Reached Tuesday afternoon, Brock defended his ad, saying everything in it is true.
"I think it's simply a contrast ad, and it contrasts those particular things and raises those issues," he said. "I think they're legitimate issues and factual. There's certainly nothing there that's pejorative."
Perhaps the most striking element of the ad is a photograph that runs while the narrator says, "Four months out of state traveling — living the good life, ignoring Vermont."
In it is a smiling Shumlin holding up a winning ticket at the 2011 Preakness, with his arm around two young women: campaign manager Alex MacLean and former Democratic Governors Association spokeswoman Lis Smith.
Asked why he chose that particular shot, Brock said, "It's a photo that's in wide circulation and it illustrates some of the things he's done when he's been out of state during this period."
Was he hinting at something about the governor, who is estranged from his wife?
"I don't know that it is," Brock says. "If you show it to others who aren't political junkies, it shows somebody having a good time at a race track, and that is one of the things he's done during his approximate four months out of state."
Not surprisingly, the Shumlin campaign was none too pleased about the ad.
"After running a relentlessly negative campaign, Randy Brock has reached a new low," MacLean said in a statement. "The negative tone, distortions and mistruths contained in this ad represent a sad way for Randy Brock to end his campaign. Vermonters have little tolerance for this type of negative and desperate campaigning and will reject it decisively next Tuesday."