Political ads target NC women, youth for US Senate race

jmorrill@charlotteobserver.comJune 10, 2014 

North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, which already has attracted more outside money than almost any contest in the country, is about to get more.

Two groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum are diving into the race with big-money efforts targeted at crucial voter groups: young people and women.

Planned Parenthood plans to invest nearly $3 million to re-elect Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. That’s more than it’s spending in any other state.

And Generation Opportunity, a group financed indirectly by the conservative Koch brothers, is starting an $800,000 campaign Wednesday to mobilize young voters against Hagan.

“We’ll probably spend more here than anywhere else,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said before a Charlotte fundraiser Tuesday night. “It reflects not only how important this U.S. Senate seat is but what a leader Kay Hagan has been for women nationwide.”

Generation Opportunity, which bills itself as a “millennial advocacy organization,” plans TV and online ads aimed at young voters. President Evan Feinberg calls it his group’s first foray into “political accountability.”

Its 30-second ad seeks to tie Hagan to government spending that it blames for high unemployment among 20-somethings.

Generation Opportunity has gotten almost 86 percent of the money it raised over three years from two Koch-linked nonprofits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Other ads have criticized the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re reaching out to young Americans of all ideologies,” Feinberg said. “This ad buy is evidence that we’re reaching out to a broad and diverse groups of young Americans.”

According to the Center, outside groups have spent $10.6 million in North Carolina’s Senate race, more than in any congressional race in the country.

Planned Parenthood is investing its money not only in Hagan’s race but also in unspecified state House races. Richards said the Senate ads will likely start in the fall. Among other things, she said, they’ll seek to tie Tillis to decisions on abortion made by the GOP-led General Assembly.

Tillis supported measures that toughened rules on abortion clinics and women seeking an abortion and that sought to block funding for Planned Parenthood.

Last fall in Virginia, exit polls show women backed Democrat Terry McAuliffe by 9 percentage points, pushing him to victory. And young voters also have leaned Democratic. In 2012, exit polls showed Democrat Barack Obama winning 60 percent of voters under 30.

Both campaigns expressed indignation over the new spending.

“It’s no surprise that another out-of-state liberal special interest group is spending millions of dollars to re-elect Kay Hagan and attack Thom Tillis,” said Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin. “Left-wing groups know they have a reliable ally in Kay Hagan, who votes with President Obama 95 percent of the time.”

And Hagan spokesman Chris Hayden said, “The same week that Kay cosponsors a bill to help young people deal with crippling debt, another Koch brothers front group releases a misleading ad to help Thom Tillis get to Washington to be their puppet.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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