RALEIGH — A super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans Thursday to spend $8.1 million on television ads in the North Carolina Senate race, where Republican incumbent Richard Burr is facing a spirited Democratic challenge.
With a goal of keeping the chamber in GOP hands, the Senate Leadership Fund said it is reserving ad time starting Sept. 13 in nearly all of the state’s TV markets and will air the ads regularly into late October. One Nation, a nonprofit arm of the fund, announced last month that it would air $2.5 million in ads praising Burr for what it called his efforts to preserve Medicare.
Polls have shown the race to be tight even though Burr, who is looking for a third Senate term, had a sizable campaign fund advantage through June: $6.9 million vs. $1.9 million for Deborah Ross, a former state legislator.
Ross has outraised Burr in recent campaign filing periods. She’s sought to paint the incumbent as being too closely aligned with special interests that have given to his campaign over the years, and has criticized his votes on Social Security and equal-pay legislation.
Burr and other North Carolina Republican candidates are campaigning in turbulent currents with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory taking sharp criticism for signing a bill limiting anti-discrimination rules for LGBT people. McCrory is also running for re-election.
While not releasing details of ad content, the Senate Leadership Fund sounds ready to go on the attack against Ross, who spent years as a lobbyist for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“By the time Election Day comes around, North Carolina voters will know more than enough about Deborah Ross’s record to make her unelectable,” fund spokesman Ian Prior said in an email.
Ross has said she is proud of her work at the ACLU, which she said protects citizens against government overreach. Ross’ campaign spokesman, Cole Leiter, said it’s not surprising that “big-money donors” are now helping Burr out given his Capitol Hill record.
“North Carolina voters won’t be fooled — they know it’s time for a change, and no amount of special interest dark money can bail Richard Burr out,” Leiter said in a release.
The Senate Leadership Fund and One Nation are led by Steven Law, McConnell’s former chief of staff. The groups are barred from coordinating with Burr’s campaign.