By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The much-expected ad war among Democratic candidates for governor is finally underway, as candidates begin releasing their first spots less than four weeks before the primary election scheduled for Aug. 14.
Ads released this week by the Democrats Matt Flynn and Kelda Roys are in large part attempts by those candidates to distinguish themselves from the others running in what remains a crowded field. Flynn and Roys are among the four Democrats who have a sizable amount of money that can be spent on ads, but they also fared poorly in Marquette University Law School’s most recent public-opinion poll, which was released Wednesday.
Tony Evers, the state superintendent, had a double-digit lead over the field, although about a third of the respondents said they were still undecided. Evers has yet to air his first TV ad.
Of the candidates, Roys had the most cash on hand on July 1, followed by Flynn, the state firefighters union leader Mahlon Mitchell and then Evers. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who had $5.9 million in the bank, has been running a series of ads in recent weeks boasting of his record while avoiding mention of the Democrats seeking to challenge him.
Roys’ and Flynn’s ads offer a glimpse into what those campaigns see as messages they can use to gain ground on Evers. Flynn, in an ad that will begin airing on Friday in four markets, begins with an image of all eight Democratic candidates as he argues that he’s the best choice because of his pledge to go to court to stop the Foxconn Technology Group project.
Flynn, a retired lawyer and former director of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, derides the Foxconn project as “Scott Walker’s corrupt $4.5 billion corporate welfare giveaway.” Walker negotiated the deal, which could lead the Taiwanese company to invest $10 billion in the state and create 13,000 jobs.
Flynn and other critics argue, though, that the $4.5 billion worth of taxpayer incentives the company stands to receive is too much. Foxconn plans to produce flat panels for a variety of electronic devices on its massive campus in Mount Pleasant, south of Milwaukee.
Roys’ ad, in contrast, both talks about protecting abortion rights and attacks President Donald Trump. The spot begins with images of Trump and his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, as Roys says, “Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.”
Roys incorrectly implies that it’s illegal to get an abortion in Wisconsin. She says “in Wisconsin, abortion is still a crime.”
The state does have an abortion ban that predates the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the country. However, the law can’t be enforced because of that ruling. Roys and other abortion-rights supporters fear Wisconsin’s old law would go into effect if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Roys has promised that if she were elected governor, she would pardon anyone who might be charged with a crime under the state’s abortion ban.
Roys’ campaign spokesman, Brian Evans, said the ad will start running Friday in Milwaukee and Madison and will run in Green Bay next week. Evans said it’s a six-figure ad buy.