DENVER — Thinking it was set to fire a potential kill shot in Colorado’s governor’s race, the Republican Governors Association instead shot a blank.
With eight days of voting left, the Republican Governors Association went back on Colorado’s airwaves with a hard-hitting ad featuring the father of a girl who was murdered in 1993 by Nathan Dunlap, the death row inmate who Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to last May.
Unfortunately, a glaring factual error in the ad may lead Colorado television stations to pull the spot from the airwaves.
The new spot, which was shot in July, features clips of a long interview shot by the pro-Beauprez independent expenditure committee “A Better Colorado Furture” with Dennis O’Connor, whose daughter Colleen was one of four Chuck E. Cheese employees murdered by Dunlap, saying that Hickenlooper’s failure to carry out the killer’s execution that was scheduled for last August was about politics.
“He’s a coward who doesn’t deserve to be in office,” O’Connor says in the ad.
O’Connor’s ex-wife and a niece have both stated that they understand and even support Hickenlooper’s decision; and Monday afternoon, Gillian McNally, the cousin of murder victim Colleen O’Connor, blasted the RGA and Beauprez for “re-victimizing our family” and asked the group to take down the ad.
“We have sat by as you have used our loss for your own political gain. We can sit by no longer,” McNally writes. “Please do not use the tragic loss of our loved one for your political ad.”
McNally also points out a blatant falsehood included in the ad, the text that appears on screen suggesting that Hickenlooper has proposed granting Dunlap “full clemency” (in an interview with CNN, Hickenlooper floated the idea of making Dunlap’s reprieve permanent should he lose the election, which would spare the killer’s life but ensure he remains in prison the rest of his life).
“To perpetuate this lie that he will be set free is outrageous,” she writes.
Monday night, an attorney for Hickenlooper’s campaign sent a cease and desist letter to local TV stations demanding that the ad be pulled.
“There can be no question that this ad deliberately distorts the facts by falsely stating that the governor is threatening to set a murderer free,” writes attorney Chantell Taylor.
The RGA was reportedly putting $2 million behind the ad, although some supporters of GOP gubernatorial nominee have been wondering privately why the group waited until so late in the campaign to put it on the air.
Not only would the $2 million buy have gotten the RGA more advertising points earlier in the year when rates were somewhat cheaper, it might have prevented Hickenlooper, who began airing TV ads in early September, from gaining back some of the ground he’d lost over the summer, when ads from the RGA, focusing on the governor’s difficulty making hard decisions, dominated the airwaves.
RGA Chairman Chris Christie told reporters in July that the group would invest heavily in Colorado because it viewed the race as winnable for Beauprez.
Earlier in the day at a fundraiser, he told Beauprez supporters the group would match what it managed to raise from Colorado donors.
After running two TV ads attacking Hickenlooper over the summer that set Hickenlooper back roughly seven points in the polls, the RGA went dark in Colorado in early October in part because it wasn’t meeting its fundraising goals and also because funds had to be diverted to other states like Kansas where governors races had suddenly become more competitive.
Democratic tracking polls now have Hickenlooper back up by 4-6 points, although Republicans believe the race is closer than that — the RGA wouldn’t be back on the air here if it thought it couldn’t still win.
“We don’t invest in lost causes,” Christie said to reporters here back in July.