Campaign ad invoking Sandy draws fire

When Sandy hit the East Coast, destroying homes and leaving millions stranded without power, politics was largely put on hold. But one radio ad in a South Jersey race invoked the coming hurricane to criticize incumbent Republican Congressman Jon Runyan.

The ad from Democrat Shelley Adler's campaign begins with an announcer saying:

“They’re calling it Frankenstorm – a nor’easter inside of a hurricane. In New Jersey we’ve seen acts of nature do real damage. We’re also seeing our own member of congress do real damage in Washington. Jon Runyan has been in congress only two short years, and already he’s voted over and over again against New Jersey workers and families.”

Sounds of wind and rain play in the background.

Today, Runyan called on Adler to apologize and pull the spot off the air, though Adler’s staff said it has already been pulled down. Adler, whose campaign sponsored the ad, is challenging Runyan in a district that includes Ocean County, much of which lies along the Jersey shore. It is one of the counties included the federal disaster declaration. The ads began running Saturday, as the storm built and many braced for its impact. Adler spokesman Michael Muller said that the campaign asked to have it pulled down on Tuesday, though he couldn't say exactly when the spot stopped running. Much of the storm’s damage had already been done by that point, but he defended the timing, calling it a "pre-storm" ad.

"Shelley Adler should immediately take down this ridiculous and insulting ad, and publicly apologize to the people of Ocean and Burlington Counties, many of whom have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy," Runyan Campaign Manager Kristin Antonello said in a news release."Shelley Adler's campaign has been dishonest and nasty from the start, but she should be embarrassed by her decision to ever run this radio ad. It really brings her judgment into question."

The ad concludes with Adler’s voice saying she approves the message. Muller said the Adler camp spent $4,000 to $5,000 on the ad, and defended it in a statement Thursday.

"It is appalling that Congressman Runyan, in the middle of this huge catastrophe, is trying to bring politics into the relief effort. What Congressman Runyan is trying to do is to divert attention from his record on disaster relief. In the guise of calling attention to an ad, which in no way denigrates or minimizes the storm that was impending at the time it was released, he is trying to proactively turn his back on inspection of his record as it relates to disaster relief."

Muller cited Runyan's votes for GOP budgets that some analysts have said would result in less aid for disaster relief.