In governor’s race, Forest runs first ad; Cooper has $14M cash

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 8, 2020

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

RALEIGH (AP) — Recent unrest in North Carolina cities and job losses related to COVID-19 closings are featured prominently in the first general election ad of the governor’s race from Republican nominee Dan Forest.

The television commercial  began airing across the state Tuesday, the day after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s campaign announced it will have a massive amount of cash entering the last four months of the campaign.

The commercial initially shows footage of apparent looters inside a drug store, and Raleigh police sport utility vehicles with flashing lights and police tape.

Forest has criticized Cooper for issuing executive orders that have closed certain businesses since March in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus, saying his strategy is misguided. He’s also blamed the governor for failing to stop damage caused by some demonstrators within broader, otherwise peaceful protests against racial injustice following the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

“With over 1 million unemployed and our state in crisis, it’s time for change,” the ad’s narrator says. “Dan Forest will provide leadership, unity and hope for our state.” The commercial does not mention Cooper, or that Forest has been lieutenant governor for 7 1/2 years. But it described Forest’s past career as an architect and promised he would “rebuild our economy” while protecting “our most vulnerable.”

Cooper’s team said he’ll report by Friday’s campaign finance deadline as having raised another $5.5 million during a 4 1/2-month period that ended June 30. The report also will say Cooper had nearly $14 million in his campaign coffers entering July.

This cash balance has given Cooper’s campaign the confidence to already reserve TV ad time starting in September through Election Day. Cooper campaign spokesperson Liz Doherty said the governor’s overall fundraising — in particular the 100,000 contributions it’s received — show people have confidence in him during the pandemic.

Cooper has said the closings of high-risk businesses like gyms and movie theaters and a mask requirement are needed to rein in growing virus case numbers.

“It is clear folks across the state understand just how dangerous Dan Forest as governor would be,” she said in a news release Monday. “That’s why they’re lining up to support this campaign to make sure we reelect the governor this November.”

Forest, the Republican lieutenant governor since 2013, has been way behind in the fundraising needed to ensure he can be on TV at will in the campaign’s final weeks. Forest campaign spokesperson Andrew Dunn declined Tuesday to describe the monetary cost of the ad buy or what Forest will next report in fundraising.

“The dollar amount will be included on the relevant financial report. We generally don’t forecast our fundraising totals,” Dunn wrote in an email.

As of mid-February, the Committee to Elect Dan Forest reported having only $750,000 in cash on hand. And that balance was before the campaign announced he had given nearly $200,000 to those needing financial assistance due to the economic downturn related to COVID-19.

A sampling of ad contracts for Forest, posted at the Federal Communications Commission website and reviewed by The Associated Press, reported a range of spending per television station from $15,900 to $184,000 for ads until July 26.

Cooper’s campaign also responded Tuesday with an online ad  seeking to link Forest to a Stokes County dirt track owner who advertised a “Bubba Rope” for sale in the days after NASCAR announced a noose was found in the garage of driver Bubba Wallace, who is Black, at Talladega Superspeedway. Forest campaign signs had been displayed at a 311 Speedway event a week before the noose revelation, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.