PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — National Republicans and Democrats on Friday committed big money to a last-minute TV ad blitz in Rhode Island, with Republicans making one of the largest ad buys of this election cycle in the state to support Brendan Doherty in an increasingly ugly race to unseat Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, and Democrats reacting hours later with news they'd run their own ads to respond.
Republicans see their best chance since the 1990s to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from the heavily Democratic state.
Nat Sillin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Friday morning the group spent $280,000 to purchase a week of TV time for ads in support of Doherty, the former head of the state police, who is making his first run for political office. Sillin said the ads are scheduled to air on broadcast stations in the final week of the campaign, from Tuesday until Nov. 6.
Doherty's political director, Rob Coupe, said the buy indicates national Republicans have confidence in the race.
"They wouldn't help us at all if they didn't think we had a very solid chance of winning," he said.
Later Friday, Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, confirmed the group was making its own TV buy to support Cicilline. He would not specify on the record how much they planned to spend, but said it would be competitive with Republicans.
"We won't let Washington Republicans' lies go unanswered and will continue to hold Brendan Doherty accountable for supporting the extreme Republican agenda," he said.
Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans more than three-to-one in Rhode Island, but Doherty has gotten traction by repeatedly focusing on Cicilline's time as mayor of Providence, which he led for eight years before being elected to Congress in 2010. Doherty has called Cicilline a liar for saying the city was in excellent financial condition during the 2010 campaign. After Cicilline left office, the city announced a $110 million budget deficit. Cicilline has apologized for his word choice.
In recent days, the race has taken an ugly turn as Doherty reached back more than a decade to Cicilline's past as a lawyer. He put out a scathing TV attack ad showing a photo of Cicilline alongside the words "rapists, pedophiles and murderers" to criticize him for working to defend such criminals.