‘We Would Be Called Racists Instantly': Virginia GOP Questions Campaign Mailer

A campaign mailer funded by the Democratic Party of Virginia is sparking criticism among Republicans. 

The ad authorized by Kathy Tran, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates seat for District 42, warns residents of the Springfield area about Republican candidate Lolita Mancheno-Smoak.

"The Halloween season, protect your family from the scariest threats," the mailer says, showing Mancheno-Smoak's smiling face alongside a metal mask and a snarling wolf mask.

John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, implied on Twitter that the mailer was racist.

"If the @VA_GOP did this we would be called racists instantly. It would be on @Morning_Joe, @maddow and all over @CNN" he wrote.

Later in the day, he posted, ".@vademocrats cry racism over Ed’s public safety ads then compare a Hispanic woman to a dog and a serial killer."

Mancheno-Smoak said the mailer was "debasing," but not because of the illustration. "It's a pretty good photo of me," she said. Rather, she objected to what she called "blatant lies" about her policies.

Virginia House Democratic Caucus spokeswoman Katie Baker defended the ad.

"We compared Lolita Mancheno-Smoak's policy positions to masks from the Halloween aisle at Target, while Republicans attacked Latina candidates with the words 'thugs, violent criminals, gang members and child predators,' and images of bullet holes, guns and men in hoodies."

Tran said the mailer was intended to highlight Mancheno-Smoak's "frankly scary" policies.

Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor, accuses Democratic candidate Ralph Northam, the current lieutenant governor, of failing to crack down on the MS-13 gang.

Latino activists say Gillespie's TV ads about the gang demonize their community.

"A Latino myself, I was very offended that in Gillespie's ad Hispanics were only portrayed as MS-13, as gang members, as violent, and we are a robust, diverse community," said Michelle LaRue, Virginia director of the immigrants' rights group CASA.

Del. Dave Albo, who Tran and Mancheno-Smoak are vying to succeed, said he was glad he'll be done soon with the meaner parts of politics.

"There's many reasons I retired. One of them is the campaigns have gotten so nasty," he said.

Voters head to the polls in just two weeks, on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

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