Brock goes negative in new campaign ad
By Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Press Bureau | October 31,2012
MONTPELIER — With less than a week until voters head to the polls, Republican Randy Brock has broken out the political knives with a new television ad that insinuates lies and corruption by incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin.
In a 30-second spot reminiscent of something Vermonters might have seen during the vicious gubernatorial contest of 2010, the Brock campaign will attempt to convince voters this week that the “Vermont way” has been “tossed aside by Peter Shumlin.”
The ad, which began airing Tuesday morning on networks across the state, goes on to accuse Shumlin of “pocketing over $100,000 overnight on a land deal.” It concludes with an unflattering edit from a recent debate designed to make it look like Shumlin is mounting some kind of cover-up over government settlements with state workers.
The Shumlin campaign immediately condemned the ad.
“Randy Brock has sunk to a new low,” said Shumlin campaign manager Alex MacLean. “The negative tone, deceptions and mistruths in his new ad represent a sad way for Randy Brock to end his campaign.”
Recriminations weren’t coming only from Democratic corners Tuesday.
Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott said the spot was “unlike anything I’ve seen from a campaign perspective here in Vermont.”
“While small pieces of it could in some way maybe be construed as accurate, things seem to have been taken out of context,” Scott said.
Brock defended the spot as a “contrast ad” that calls attention to issues ranging from the Green Mountain Power-CVPS utility merger to the fact that Shumlin spent the equivalent of four months out of state in his first 21 months in office.
“Contrast ads can be related to contrasts on issues,” Brock said. “But contrast ads can also relate to contrasts in the way individuals approach things, and that’s what this ad does.”
Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College, recalled a Brock release earlier this year in which the Republican’s campaign criticized Shumlin for hiring an out-of-state consulting firm that specializes in negative tactics.
“Well, who’s the first candidate who has really gone negative this year? Randy Brock,” Davis said.
Davis said Brock may have some internal polling numbers that show an insurmountable gap, and “he may be a candidate who simply has decided to go down guns blazing,” Davis said.
Davis said he doesn’t think it’ll work.
“We know this in the long history of Vermont that candidates who go negative usually aren’t helping their campaigns,” Davis said. “And I see no reason why that proposition doesn’t apply in this case.”