In the seven weeks since Lt. Gov. Phil Scott won his party’s gubernatorial primary, a super PAC funded by the Republican Governors Association has been flooding the airwaves with positive television advertisements.
On Wednesday, the national GOP group went negative — releasing a tough new ad labeling Democratic nominee Sue Minter as a protégé of retiring Gov. Peter Shumlin, whom it refers to as a failure. The spot features bobblehead dolls loosely resembling the two Democrats.
The size of the ad buy was not immediately clear. But according to a disclosure filed Monday with the Secretary of State’s Office, the super PAC, called A Stronger Vermont, spent $244,362 last Friday on media placement. That same disclosure indicated that the RGA had transferred another $600,000 to its super PAC in September, bringing its total investment in the race to $1.2 million.
A super PAC funded by the Democratic Governors Association, called Our Vermont, has been running ads for three weeks promoting Minter and criticizing Scott. That group appears to have spent far less than its Republican counterpart.
The GOP super PAC seems intent on linking Minter to Shumlin, under whom she served as transportation secretary, deputy transportation secretary and Tropical Storm Irene recovery officer. Shumlin has endorsed Minter and contributed money to her campaign. The new ad is called “Minter’s mentor” and is featured on a new website the super PAC launched at mintersmentor.com.
“It’s no secret Sue Minter’s mentor is Peter Shumlin. They worked together, raised taxes together, and now their allies are running negative ads against Phil Scott,” the ad’s narrator says. “Shumlin failed, and now he’s pushing Sue Minter to continue their bad policies of higher taxes on us and fewer Vermonters working. We can’t afford two more years of Sue Minter and her mentor Peter Shumlin.”
At an unrelated press conference Wednesday in his Montpelier office, Shumlin referred to the ad as out-of-state “garbage” and said, “I don’t think Vermonters [will] respond to it very well.”
As for the bobblehead likeness, Shumlin quipped, “My wife said it didn’t look like me.”
Minter spokesman Elliott Bent contested the assertion that his boss would raise taxes on Vermonters, saying that such attacks “don’t add up.”
“This ad is typical of the distortions that we’ve seen across the country from the national Republican Party,” Bent said. “I’d expect this kind of attack from [GOP presidential nominee] Donald Trump, but it has no place in Vermont.”
Scott has repeatedly pledged to run a positive campaign. Asked Wednesday whether he was comfortable with his allies going negative, campaign coordinator Brittney Wilson said the Scott campaign was legally barred from coordinating with the Republican super PAC — even through the media.
“Phil is running a positive, issue-oriented campaign focused on growing the economy and making Vermont more affordable,” Wilson added. “It’s certainly not an ad we’d run.”