Conservative-backed education group launches $1M ad campaign hitting McAuliffe

Conservative-backed education group launches $1M ad campaign hitting McAuliffe
© Greg Nash

A conservative-backed education group is launching a $1 million ad campaign in Virginia, hitting Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe over his stances on parents' involvement in students' education. 

Free to Learn Action will roll out the ad on Friday, airing it on television stations across the state, including major cable news networks. Additionally, voters in specific Virginia counties will be targeted through a digital component, according to the group. 

According to CBS News, Free to Learn Action is supported by the conservative Concord Fund. 

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The 30-second spot, which is called "Pay the Price," zeroes in on comments made at last month's gubernatorial debate in which McAuliffe said he did not believe parents should tell schools what to teach. The ad also touches on the issue of failing test scores, sexual content in school learning materials, and the fallout over two sexual assault allegations against students.

The soundbite made waves with conservatives and Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who has been pushing education-related issues as a key campaign platform. Youngkin was up with an ad hitting McAuliffe over the comments less than 24 hours after the forum. 

But Youngkin and his supporters have tapped into conservative outrage expressed at the highly contentious school board meetings in Loudoun County, Virginia, which gained national attention over pushback against critical race theory and transgender issues in the classroom. Most recently, Youngkin has called for an investigation into the Loudoun County School Board's handling of the sexual assault allegations. 

McAuliffe has brushed off Youngkin's attacks on education-related issues as "a dog whistle." His campaign also released an ad last week in which the former governor accused Youngkin of taking his words out of context. The American Federation of Teachers also launched an ad last week supporting McAuliffe on the issue of education. 

The efforts come as the race is deadlocked with less than two weeks to go until Election Day and with hundreds of thousands of early votes already cast in the state. A Monmouth University survey released on Wednesday found Youngkin and McAuliffe tied at 46 percent.