A new “dark money” media buy is scrambling the GOP Attorney General June 10 run-off.
Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge held a nine-point lead after the May 20th primary over her run-off rival David Sterling.
In the primary, Sterling benefited greatly by an out-of-state expenditure group, American Freedom Fund, which touted his candidacy due to his support for a “stand your ground” law in Arkansas.
On Thursday (May 29), a new group — Judicial Crisis Network — dropped a statewide mailer and launched a significant TV ad buy accusing Rutledge of being against a “stand your ground” law, which loosens restrictions on armed citizens using guns in self-defense situations. The TV ad buy is estimated to be more that $300,000.
The ad and the mailer say that Rutledge opposes “stand your ground” laws, while Sterling supports the cause. The TV ad attempts to tie Rutledge to positions it claims are shared by President Obama and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Rutledge reacted strongly to the mailer and emphasized that she supports self-defense “whenever and wherever” needed. She also said Sterling and the out-of-state groups are intentionally misrepresenting current law.
“It’s happened again. An out-of-state Political Action Committee with a list of secret donors has purchased ads attacking me in the race for Attorney General for the State of Arkansas,” said Rutledge. “These ridiculous, manipulative attacks are an attempt by a secret group, with secret donors and a secret agenda, to manipulate Arkansas’s Attorney General election for an unknown reason.”
“First, let me make myself clear. I am a life-long Christian conservative who strongly supports Second Amendment rights. I have the highest possible rating from the National Rifle Association, am an NRA member, carry a Glock 27 .40 caliber and hold a concealed carry license. I 100% support the right of any individual in the State of Arkansas to defend him/herself if attacked. As Attorney General, I will make it a priority to ensure that our Second Amendment right is protected,” she added.
Rutledge said she believes current state law allows for self-defense anytime and anywhere and that if the legislature wants to add additional provisions to the law, she will work with them to make sure it is “accurate, unambiguous, and constitutionally sound.”
She also questioned if Sterling had anything to do in coordinating the ad to help his campaign.
“If my opponent and his secretive supporters are willing to lie and distort reality to win votes, how can he be trusted as our Attorney General? Was there a deal cut to get an out of state group to lie and manipulate the truth in order to buy our Attorney General’s office?” Rutledge said.
Sterling denied any coordination.
“That ad was produced by a group independent of my campaign,” he said. “I’m focused on my message of reining in the federal government, fighting for Arkansans and Arkansas small businesses, supporting a ‘stand your ground’ law, and repairing our state’s broken death penalty. I’m taking this message to Arkansas voters for the next two weeks.”
The winner of the Rutledge-Sterling run-off faces Democrat Nate Steel and Libertarian Aaron Cash in the November general election.