GOP Group Urges Young Voters to Support Weed Candidate

The last-minute pitch is a bid to siphon votes from Democrat Kay Hagan so that the Republican can advance.

UNITED STATES - Sept 24: Thom Tillis (R) North Carolina during an interview at Roll Call in Washington, D.C.   
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Alex Roarty
Oct. 21, 2014, 4:32 p.m.

A Re­pub­lic­an group is mak­ing a last-ditch ef­fort to push the GOP Sen­ate can­did­ate in North Car­o­lina across the fin­ish line by ur­ging young voters to get be­hind the marijuana-sup­port­ing liber­tari­an in the race.

The Amer­ic­an Fu­ture Fund, which is run­ning the on­line ad cam­paign, touts third-party con­tender Sean Haugh as the only one in the Sen­ate con­test who sup­ports leg­al­iz­ing marijuana and op­poses war.

The move aims to si­phon lib­er­al sup­port from Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is locked in one of the coun­try’s tight­est Sen­ate races again Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger Thom Tillis. (The ads might also per­suade con­ser­vat­ives, many of whom gen­er­ally wouldn’t sup­port the ads’ mes­sage, to stop sup­port­ing Haugh.)

AFF was once primar­ily fun­ded by the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers. But a spokes­man for Free­dom Part­ners, which doles out fund­ing to vaari­ous in the Koch net­work, said it has not giv­en the group any money in the last two years. 

The ads ap­pear to have been launched in secret. The group’s web­site and Twit­ter feed, which con­tain news re­leases about oth­er ad cam­paigns, does not men­tion the ef­forts to help Haugh. 

A spokes­man for the group says the di­git­al buy is for $225,000, and the group could in­crease the buy later. The ad ap­peared to one re­port­er while watch­ing Hulu, and the group has built a make­shift web­site that in­cludes sev­er­al dif­fer­ent on­line spots.

The con­tent of the ads is likely to get as much at­ten­tion as the cam­paign it­self: In one, a young wo­man says Hagan “doesn’t share our val­ues” be­cause she sup­ports war and op­poses leg­al­iz­ing marijuana.

“Vote Sean Haugh,” she says. “He sup­ports our pro­gress­ive val­ues. Pro-leg­al­iz­a­tion, pro-en­vir­on­ment. More weed, less war.”

The spot fin­ishes with an im­age of a single can­nabis leaf. An­oth­er ad fea­tures a young man wear­ing a shirt with a pic­ture of Bob Mar­ley smoking a joint.

Haugh, who still works as a pizza de­liv­ery­man while run­ning for the Sen­ate seat, has re­ceived a lot of cov­er­age for draw­ing an un­usu­ally large amount of sup­port for an un­der­fun­ded can­did­acy. In­ter­est­ingly though, his pres­ence is seen as a big­ger prob­lem for the Re­pub­lic­an Tillis, who has trailed in most pub­lic sur­veys of the race.

AFF ap­pears to be try­ing to make Haugh a di­lemma for Hagan as well, al­though it’s un­clear how ef­fect­ive a di­git­al ad cam­paign will be in a race that has already fea­tured more than $100 mil­lion in TV ad buys alone.

Up­date: This story has been up­dated to re­flect com­ment from Free­dom Part­ners. 


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