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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: May 2016

3 - That's what she said, and so did he


Carol Shea-Porter hoped she had found an opening. Locked in a tough 2014 reelection battle for her U.S. House seat, the New Hampshire Democrat aired an ad accusing her opponent, Republican Frank Guinta, of setting back decades of progress for women. Against a backdrop of vintage cars, telephone operators, and black-and-white TVs, Shea-Porter told voters that “Back in the fifties, women's rights were restricted. Equal pay? Forget about it.” My opponent, she said, “has never once stood up for equal pay … Letting Frank Guinta take us back to the fifties is the wrong direction.”

Two states over, central New York Democrat Dan Maffei was reading from the same playbook. His ad featured an eight-year-old boy named Fred, an aspiring entrepreneur in a business suit who operates a lemonade stand where two of his friends just finished a shift. “Great work,” Fred tells Jason, handing him $10. “And Sally, since you did the same work, here's $8 for you.” Across the street, Maffei turns to the camera and says, “You don't have to be a grown up to know that isn't fair. We've got to make sure that women get equal pay for equal work.” Further west, California Democrat Scott Peters ran an ad informing voters that Republican Carl DeMaio pledged to support the agenda of “Tea Party extremists who oppose pay fairness for women.”

While Democrats tried to draw voters’ attention to issues of pay equity, Republican candidates sounded alarm bells about the consequences of leaving national security in Democratic hands. Amid images of first responders, undocumented workers, and Arabic text, a narrator in U.S. House candidate David Trott's ad warned Michigan voters, “Open borders. Less funding for security … It's a dangerous world alright. And if [Democrat] Bobby McKenzie had his way, it would be worse.” Florida Republican Steve Southerland juxtaposed his commitment to national security with what he considered his Democratic opponent's dangerously cavalier approach. “The first obligation of government is to keep us safe. But look around: open borders, threats of terrorism, Ebola. Obama has no plan. Pelosi just points fingers,” the ad alleged. “Can you trust Obama, Pelosi, and Gwen Graham to protect us?” In Arizona, Martha McSally issued the same indictment against Democratic incumbent Ron Barber. The ad, which included shots of Nancy Pelosi with Barber, stated: “We're losing. No border security … Is Congress helping? We can choose different.”

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