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The 2022 midterm elections are the first of the Biden era. They're also the first since the 2020 census, which means there are new congressional districts. There are U.S. Senate races in the Carolinas as well, along with many state and local races.

After small change, controversial GOP attack ad is back on TV

Steve Harrison
Republicans are attacking Democrat Cheri Beasley over crime.

Last week, several North Carolina TV stations took the unusual step of removing a Republican attack ad against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley. But the commercial — which criticizes Beasley for being soft on crime — is now back on the air, after Republicans made a small change.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee changed one line in the 30-second ad. The group said it’s now playing again on every TV station in which it bought time.

When TV stations, including WSOC in Charlotte, initially removed the ad, Beasley’s campaign called the commercial a false attack. It also said the GOP had been caught “lying.”

The issue is over Beasley’s tenure on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

In the original ad, the NSRC said Beasley — in a court ruling — “set free” a child pornography offender.

The reality is more complicated. Beasley voted with the court majority in upholding a court of appeals decision that a police detective had illegally searched an Onslow County man’s USB drive without a laptop.

The decision did not set the man free. He served another two years related to a photo that wasn’t subject to the court appeal.

The ad now says the Beasley “sided with him…not the police.”

When TV stations initially removed the ad, Beasley’s campaign called the commercial a false attack. It also said the GOP had been caught “lying.” When asked about the ad running again, the Beasley campaign pointed to a statement given by a number of North Carolina sheriffs, who said Beasley is tough on crime.

WRAL also raised questions about another claim in the ad.

Chris Hartline with the NSRC said more attack ads are coming.

“There’s a lot more to come on this front so we’re happy to have a debate for the rest of the election on crime and her record on crime,” he said.

Hartline said the NRSC believes the original ad was fair.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is making crime an issue in this year's U.S. Senate race. Some TV stations refused to run an earlier version of this ad.

In response, the Beasley campaign and the Democratic Senate Majority PAC have countered with ads touting Beasley’s criminal justice record. One commercial noted that “Judge Beasley has cracked down on violent criminals her entire career.”

Senate Majority PAC
The Senate Majority PAC has run an ad saying Cheri Beasley is tough on violent crime.

Beasley has so far raised more money than her Republican opponent, Rep. Ted Budd, but has not yet attacked him in commercials. Dory MacMillan, a Beasley spokesperson, said Beasley is so far introducing herself to voters.

In a story in Politico last month, the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said Democrats aren’t sure yet how much they will invest in the North Carolina race this fall. Democrats are trying to hold their slim Senate majority, and could devote more resources to other states, like Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.