Brock slams Shumlin with negative ad in last salvo

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Randy Brock’s final ad for the campaign season is a Halloween special. The Republican gubernatorial candidate has bet his money on an uber negative ad that gives his Democratic rival Gov. Peter Shumlin the ghostly hue of a member of the Blue Man Group.

In the short clip, a narrator’s ominous voices throws out statements of “fact” as rhetorical questions -- a $21 million ratepayer rebate never made; four months out of state traveling ... living the good life -- followed by echo chamberesque, elliptical responses -- “broken promises” and “ignoring Vermont,” that are further emphasized in police tape style black lettering on a blood red strip. The "good life" image is a Facebook photo of the governor with Alex MacLean, his campaign manager, and Liz Smith of the Democratic Governors Association, at the Preakness Stakes in 2011.

The ad also claims the governor “pocketed $100,000 over night in a land deal” and spent “thousands of dollars on undisclosed discrimination and misconduct allegations” (accompanied by a quote from Shumlin that Brock could “debate this with my legal counsel”).

The source of the ghoulishly blue video is Strategy Group for Media.

Darcie Johnston, a campaign consultant for Brock, says the ad will be on WCAX, WPTZ, Fox News and cable channels and will be in a 1,000 gross rating points rotation, in which the average viewer will see the ad at least 10 times.

The cost? $80,000 for the week. It’s the fifth ad from the GOP state senator who has spent $400,000 so far on TV advertising. As of Oct. 15, Brock had brought in $692,000; $300,000 of which came out of his own pocket. At the time he had $100,000 on hand.

Johnston bristles at the suggestion that the ad is negative. “Everything in there is 100 percent factual,” she said in an interview.

“I think it brings together some of the issues that certainly we’ve had with Gov. Shumlin and his governing of the state,” Johnston said. “We will continue to talk about jobs and the lack of them and the governor’s inability to create them.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott told Paul Heintz of Seven Days that he was troubled by the innuendo that the governor has been involved in a cover up of a discrimination settlement.

"I've never bought into the notion that negative campaigning is something Vermonters necessarily want to see," Scott told Heintz. "I'm sure there's some portions of the ad that are accurate. It's, I guess, the innuendos. It just seems a little over-the-top to me. I'm not comfortable with that kind of thing."

MacLean says Brock has sunk “to a new low” after running a distinctly negative campaign.

“The negative tone, distortions and missed truths in his new ad represent a sad way for Randy Brock to end his campaign,” MacLean said. “Vermonters have little tolerance for this kind of negativity and desperate campaigning and will reject it decisively on Election Day.”

MacLean couldn’t say if the governor would run more ads. Shumlin has released two ads, both of which have been positive messages about his first term in office.

The Shumlin camp has planned no more campaign press conferences; Brock may hold one more before Nov. 6.

Meanwhile, local newspapers are starting to release endorsements for the two candidates. The Stowe Reporter/Waterbury Record and the Bennington Banner have endorsed Shumlin; The Caledonian Record has backed Brock and outlined reasons why the newspaper’s editorial writers can’t support Shumlin.

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Anne Galloway

About Anne

Anne Galloway is the founder and editor-at-large of VTDigger. Galloway founded VTDigger in 2009 after she was laid off from her position as Sunday editor of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. VTDigger has grown from a $16,000 a year nonprofit with no employees to a $2.8 million nonprofit daily news operation with a staff of 32. In 2017, Galloway was a finalist for the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors FOIA Award for her investigation into allegations of foreign investor fraud at Jay Peak Resort.

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