After indicating he would run a "positive, aggressive campaign," Scottie Mayfield is the first candidate to have opted to run negative TV advertisements in Tennessee's 3rd District congressional race.
In an ad that began airing on district televisions this week, the candidate aligns Rep. Chuck Fleischmann with the "Obama agenda," claiming the congressman voted "one out of four times" with President Barack Obama. The ad comes two months after Mayfield praised the congressman for voting conservative and also said he had not studied Fleischmann's record enough to disagree with any of the votes the congressman had cast since taking office in 2010.
In addition, the ad comes days after Mayfield said in posts to both Twitter and Facebook that "False/negative ads have no place in the #TN03 primary," and he added his expectation to "be attacked by an opponent"—a claim which has yet to come to fruition on 3rd District airwaves.
Phone and email attempts to reach a Mayfield campaign spokesman by Nooga.com regarding the advertisement and the candidate's previous statements were not returned Tuesday.
"The Obama agenda is wiping out jobs and killing our economy," the commercial's narrator says, as a clip of the president's recent, controversial, "you didn't build that" comment is replayed on the screen. "But our congressman voted one out of four times with Obama, the highest of any Tennessee Republican in the House."
The ad twice cites a Jan. 16 article in the subscription-only publication CQ Weekly, but does not specify the nature of Fleischmann's votes. It also cites a June 22 report that was covered by the Knoxville News Sentinel in which Fleischmann was reported for scoring a 44 percent grade on a "Spending Cut Scorecard" organized by the conservative organization Club for Growth.
The score, which placed Fleischmann last among Republicans in the Tennessee delegation, drew criticism primarily from Weston Wamp, who is also challenging Fleischmann in the Aug. 2 Republican primary. The congressman defended his score, saying he had voted against amendments that would have added up to billions of dollars in potential cuts because of effects they would have had to ongoing projects at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
When the scorecard was last updated on July 9, the congressman's rating had bumped to 69 percent—second-to-last among the GOP field of representatives from Tennessee.
The 30-second spot never mentions Wamp or Ron Bhalla, the only other Republicans waging a bid for the 3rd District seat. Instead, it keeps the focus on Fleischmann and Obama, showing clips and photos of the president three times, and only once featuring the congressman, in a silent clip filtered through a greenish-blue tint.
Upon the commercial's finish, a bow-tie-sporting Mayfield and his wife are seen walking hand in hand, smiling and sharing laughs, as the candidate voices approval of his message.
In a news release, Fleischmann's campaign quickly dismissed the commercial as a "false TV ad." Jordan Powell, campaign manager for Fleischmann, called the move "desperate."
"The idea that Chuck has voted with President Obama is absurd," Powell said. "He has been a staunch opponent of President Obama since taking office in 2010."
The Fleischmann campaign didn't indicate if Mayfield's commercial would trigger negative advertising from their campaign. But with just less than $400,000 in campaign cash-on-hand remaining, Fleischmann is likely to continue airing advertisements as the primary season heads into its final days.
As of Monday, Wamp had tallied the second-highest cash-on-hand total among Republican candidates, reporting more than $191,000 to put toward his campaign. Behind Wamp was Mayfield, who recently loaned his campaign an additional $150,000 to bring his cash-on-hand total just shy of $170,000.
Along with Bhalla, Fleischmann, Mayfield and Wamp, Bill Taylor and Dr. Mary Headrick are running as Democrats.
Primaries are Aug. 2.
Updated @ 8:59 a.m. on 07/25/12 for clarity.