Republicans in competitive House and Senate races are hitting Democrats with a barrage of ads focused on voters’ increased fears about the surge in violent crime, with the issue playing a central role in many tight contests, reports the Wall Street Journal. Republicans have called Democrats too tolerant of crime after social-justice protests in 2020 over policing abuses, and have criticized some Democrats’ support of measures such as eliminating cash bail. They have tied Democratic candidates to calls from activists to defund police departments and shift money to other resources. Democrats have responded by citing bills that passed the House in September that would send grants to police departments, as well as advocacy for tighter gun laws they say would cut crime. Many also say changes to the criminal justice system are overdue, citing what they say is over-incarceration in minority and low-income communities.
In a House district spanning suburbs south of Raleigh, N.C., voters are seeing a higher concentration of crime ads than any other market with a competitive House race. Republicans backing GOP nominee Bo Hines connect Democrat Wiley Nickel’s career as a defense attorney with their message that his party’s policies are leading to increases in crime. A Republican ad calls him “the criminal choice for Congress” and an advocate for cutting police funding. Nickel, a state senator, rejects those characterizations and said he backed legislation in the state legislature intended to help police departments. He is running an ad touting his endorsement by the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association. About 70 percent of the political ads on broadcast and cable TV in the Raleigh-Durham market since Labor Day have at least touched on crime, the highest percentage of any market with a House race, according to ad tracker AdImpact. Ads featuring crime are playing a large role in Senate contests as well, sometimes eclipsing other issues such as inflation, abortion access and immigration. Crime has been prominently mentioned in more than a third of all congressional campaign broadcast and cable TV spots that have aired since Labor Day in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the highest share among states with competitive Senate races, AdImpact data show.