Wade attack ad tars opponent with ‘migrant caravan’

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An attack ad aired by Republican Trudy Wade's campaign selectively highlights a handful of people from Mexico, El Salvador and Haiti who illegally voted in the last election to whip up fear around immigration. (screenshot)

Opponents of Republican Sen. Trudy Wade are speaking out against her recent political advertisement.

A 30-second ad running on Greensboro-area TV stations targets immigrants and plays on fears of the “migrant caravan” approaching the US-Mexico border and concerns about voter fraud.

A few local Democrats are crying foul.

“Trudy Wade should be ashamed of herself for putting this out,” said Catherine (Kelly Jo) Netter in a post on Facebook. She shared the ad after watching the CBS Sunday morning show on WFMY News 2.

“When speaking you should always consider your audience,” Netter said. “Some people are not mentally stable when interpreting this type of racial rhetoric as has been seen in our communities when this type of propaganda is answered in gun violence by someone thinking they have been called to stop what Trudy Wade is describing in this campaign ad.”

Netter, a vocal opponent of Wade and one of Democratic candidate Danny Rogers’ campaign staff members, called the ad “not only irresponsible, but dangerous.”

The video opens with scenes of what the ad calls “a mob of illegal immigrants marching towards our border” then cuts to images of Wade’s Democratic opponent, Michael Garrett. The ad claims that Garrett knew about 19 “illegal immigrants” who were charged earlier this year after an investigation by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that they had voted illegally in the state during the 2016 election. The ad then points out in block letters three specific nationalities from the list of those arrested: Mexicans, Haitians and Salvadorans. The ad continues to say that Garrett opposes a proposed constitutional voter ID amendment on the ballot this year. The ad wraps up by rallying supporters to vote for the amendment and makes statements like, “Only you can stop the mob,” and, “Only you can protect your vote.”

Many who watched the video on Facebook expressed concern over the ad’s highly racialized fearmongering messaging, especially given the recent politically-motivated attacks like the bombs sent to Democrats and opponents of President Trump and the mass shooting at a Jewish synagogue over the weekend.

The Wade ad targets the three nationalities, which constituted six out of the 19 arrests. The 11 other nationalities on the list are those from the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, the Philippines, Panama, Guyana, Grenada, Japan, Italy, Korea, Germany and Poland.

A look at public records filed by Wade’s campaign with the Federal Communications Committee shows that Wade is also running the ad on WXII and WGHP and has spent almost $200,000 to run the ads on the stations from mid-October through Election Day.

Garrett says he’s not surprised by the ad.

“Senator Wade’s entire campaign has been juvenile and in the political gutter,” he said. “If you look at her entire her campaign, it is a last desperate gasp from a desperate career politician who will say anything to achieve power.”

Garrett, who garnered nearly 47 percent of the vote in a losing bid against Wade in 2016, says the one thing the ad gets correct is his stance on the voter ID.

In my opinion, it’s a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist,” Garrett said. “It discriminates against the poor and the elderly. The whole argument from this General Assembly has never been about voter security. The true motivations have been about keeping certain people from voting.”

While the federal investigation found that 19 foreign nationals had voted illegally, more than 4.7 million votes were cast in the state in the 2016 election, making the percentage of those who voted illegally a miniscule 0.0000039 percent of the voting population.

Calls and messages to Wade’s office were not returned for this story.

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