Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 6, 2014

TOM LoBIANCO: Negative ads shake up 2014 GOP primary battles

Behning, Waterman, Kubacki races draw thousands in spending

What has otherwise been a fairly sleepy primary cycle suddenly started to shake up in the past week, when negative ads from an otherwise soft-spoken veteran lawmaker hit the airwaves in Indianapolis.

House Education Chairman Robert Behning, a veteran Republican, is facing one of his toughest election challenges from a union electrician, Michael Scott. Behning launched a series of ads dubbing his opponent a “liberal politician.” The spots, which began airing last week in central Indiana, show Scott alongside pictures of President Barack Obama and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“Michael Scott’s campaign has been supported by some of the same groups that support Barack Obama,” says the announcer.

The ads were hitting just days ahead of today’s primary.

It’s the type of ad that seemed more likely to show up two years ago, during the nasty intraparty fight between then-U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Yet this year’s Statehouse fights have proven to be some of the most visceral the state has seen.

The Behning television ads carry a message that has been playing out in mailboxes across the state for months now — bitter Republican primary battles with accusations of “liberalism” and stark questions of conservative bona fides.

Indiana tea party leader Monica Boyer said the pieces she’s seeing are on par with the hits landed in the Mourdock-Lugar primary. Boyer is backing Curt Nisly’s challenge of Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse. Nisly’s campaign has become something of a magnet for social conservatives and unions, while Kubacki is being backed by business groups and the House Republican Campaign Committee.

The fight in this northern Indiana district has played out largely in the pages of The Elkhart Truth, The Goshen News and other newspapers. Boyer accused Kubacki of targeting her family in a full-page ad.

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