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RODERICK RANDOM: Red-hot Ad Campaigns, But Cool Blue Shirts

August 25, 2018

Matt Cartwight and John Chrin, a couple of rich guys who can afford splendid vacations, sure haven’t given their congressional campaigns the summer off.

Anyone who watches local evening television news knows all about the commercial war between Cartwright, the incumbent Democratic congressman from Moosic, and Chrin, the Republican former Wall Street executive who lives at Skytop in Monroe County.

Both want to represent the 8th Congressional District, which includes all of Lackawanna, Wayne and Pike counties, most of Luzerne County and part of Monroe County. Cartwright represents the present 17th Congressional District, whose boundaries will disappear in January when new boundaries take effect, including the new 8th.

We pointed out a couple of weeks ago how early candidates have started airing commercials this year compared to back in the day.

Chrin started out playing nice in mid-July. He aired a biographical TV ad about himself that promised he would fight for jobs, quality affordable health care and a ban on “sanctuary cities.” He promised to “defend our families, our values, our Northeast Pennsylvania way of life.”

Two weeks later, the Chrin campaign rolled out a tougher commercial that labeled Cartwright “too liberal and out of touch.”

The ad accused Cartwright of “supporting sanctuary cities, protecting criminals, more welfare” and “voting to raise our taxes by thousands of dollars while refusing to pay taxes on his luxury condo.”

As this newspaper pointed out a few weeks ago, Cartwright regularly has paid taxes late on his condo in Washington, D.C., but he eventually paid the taxes, penalties and interest.

Oh, the ad also said Cartwright voted with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi 96 percent of the time and called her “wonderful.” (That seems an odd charge considering Democrats like Pelosi, and Chrin needs Democratic votes to win.)

“The better choice, John Chrin, job creator, family man, shares our values,” Chrin’s ad’s narrator says.

That ad cited a Citizens’ Voice story from May 23, 2012, as the source of how often Cartwright votes with Pelosi. Trouble is, Cartwright first won his office in November 2012.

The ad cites the same story for Cartwright calling Pelosi “wonderful,” and he did say that in that story.

Cartwright, who once said he would represent the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” fired back in his own commercial.

“I’m Matt Cartwright,” Cartwright narrates. “You may know me and my family, but you don’t know John Chrin. He’s a Wall Street banker who lives in New Jersey. (Who) doesn’t understand how people in our area struggle to make ends meet, especially our senior citizens. How do I know? Because he talks about cutting the cost-of-living increases for Social Security benefits.”

This refers partly to Chrin changing his residence from New Jersey to Pennsylvania over the last year to run for Congress. Cartwright doesn’t believe Chrin actually moved because his New Jersey house isn’t up for sale.

The Cartwright campaign provided a video clip of Chrin talking about the tax cut bill from last December. In the clip, Chrin, who favors the tax bill, says the bill “marginally” modifies the consumer price index used to calculate cost-of-living adjustments to perhaps reduce the adjustments by two-tenths of a percent.

“That two-tenths of a percent lower over a 50-year period is going to have very meaningful change in terms of the viability of the (Social Security) system,” Chrin says.

“John does not support cutting Social Security cost of living adjustments,” Chrin spokesman Michael Stwarka said in an email Friday afternoon.

(It’s clear from the two commercials that Chrin and Cartwright love blue, button-down shirts, though Chrin wears a greater variety of blue shirts in his first ad. Is he appealing to Democrats of all kinds?)

Chrin wouldn’t let that Cartwright ad on Social Security go unanswered. He responded in a new ad.

“When Matt Cartwright went to Washington, he left the truth behind,” Chrin says, again blue-shirted. “I’d never cut Social Security or Medicare. “My own mom relies on them. The only person who ever voted to cut Medicare is Matt Cartwright.”

As Chrin says Cartwright voted to cut Medicare, the ad’s video refers to a story published Aug. 14, 2012, in The Washington Post.

Oops.

Cartwright wasn’t in Congress in August 2012 either.

“He attacks me while voting 96 percent of the time with Nancy Pelosi,” Chrin says as the ad again incorrectly cites the May 23, 2012, Citizens’ Voice story. “Northeast Pennsylvania deserves better. In Congress, I’ll strengthen Social Security and Medicare for years to come.”

The Chrin campaign disputed whether the citations are errors. It said ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization, showed Cartwright voted 96 percent with Pelosi. That’s true.

The Chrin ad just showed the wrong source for the percentage in the commercial.

As for that Aug. 14, 2012, Washington Post story, it never mentions Cartwright. Why would it? He wasn’t in Congress. The story does mention the Republican claim that Obamacare cut $716 billion from Medicare, which is sort of true and sort of isn’t.

The Chrin campaign was trying to make the point that Cartwright supports Obamacare, which he does. Cartwright just wasn’t around to vote for Obamacare on March 21, 2010.

The Cartwright campaign pointed out that Cartwright wasn’t around for that vote in an email to reporters Thursday.

None of these things may matter much, because no one pays much attention to political ads in July, but Cartwright might point to the errors later as evidence of Chrin’s unworthiness to serve in Congress.

Finally, the Chrin campaign has asked Cartwright to debate once in each of the 8th district’s counties. It’s a tactic typical of candidates who need more exposure.

So far, they have agreed on one debate, Oct. 29, at WVIA-TV, the Chrin campaign said.

BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune politics reporter, writes Random Notes.

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