Tuesday’s crowded GOP primary for Indiana’s competitive 5th Congressional District has been a nasty affair for a while, but businesswoman Beth Henderson has dialed up the xenophobia, as well as the misogyny, in a commercial against her Ukrainian-born foe, state Sen. Victoria Spartz.
The ad begins with a clip of Spartz accompanied by the text “UNALTERED VIDEO.” All the state senator actually says here is “congressional candidate Victoria Spartz,” but Henderson’s campaign almost certainly wants to ensure that the audience hears Spartz say her name in her thick Ukrainian accent.
The narrator then declares, “Victoria Spartz pretends to be a conservative. But Victoria has a secret.” That line is then accompanied by a picture of the dark outline of woman gazing at a large Soviet flag on a nearby building and the text “VICTORIA’S SECRET.” Spartz herself has run commercials that talked about her emigration from “socialist-controlled Ukraine,” so her national origins are hardly a “secret.” And unsurprisingly, the actual allegations in Henderson’s spot have absolutely nothing to do with Spartz being from the former Soviet Union.
The narrator instead says that Spartz took taxpayer-funded subsidies and later self-funded her congressional campaign and now “won’t talk about it.” The ad then goes back to the video of Spartz saying, “If you know as much as I know …” before the narrator cuts her off to say, “Victoria, we couldn’t agree more.”
The rest of the commercial goes on to promote Henderson and remind viewers that she has Sen. Mike Braun’s support. Henderson then appears at the end and, after talking about her conservative credentials, concludes, “I was born in the USA and I’m running for Congress.”
This ad is the latest indication that Henderson believes that Spartz, who has decisively outspent the rest of the field, is her main opponent on Tuesday. The only poll we’ve seen was a mid-May survey from Spartz’s allies at the Club for Growth that showed her leading former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi 32-14, while Henderson took 13%.
The Club isn’t acting like Spartz is safely ahead, though: Roll Call recently reported that the group has spent $400,000 on commercials arguing that Brizzi and Henderson have opposed Donald Trump in the past. Several other candidates are running, including physician Chuck Dietzen and state Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, but they haven’t taken much fire from anyone.
This suburban Indianapolis seat was safely red turf until the Trump era, but whoever emerges from Tuesday’s ugly primary will be in for a competitive race in the fall. This seat moved from 58-41 Romney to 53-41 Trump, and former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly narrowly prevailed here 48.4-47.9 in 2018 even though he lost 51-45 statewide. National Democrats have consolidated behind former state Rep. Christina Hale, who doesn’t face any serious opposition for the nomination.