As Republicans Campaign on Crime, Racism Is a New Battlefront

“The images used in the ad match up to the victims of the criminals she went easy on,” Mr. Felts said. “Are you suggesting the ad makers should make up fake victims, or are you suggesting she shouldn’t be held accountable for her judicial and legal record?”

In fact, the judicial and legal records portrayed in at least one of the ads have been determined to be distorted, at best. The first version of the Republican Senatorial Committee’s ad, which portrayed child crime victims from different races, was pulled down by North Carolina television stations in June after they agreed that some of the assertions were false. In a later version, the committee made slight word changes to satisfy the channels but added a more overt racial contrast.

“All communities are concerned about public safety,” said State Representative Brandon Lofton, a Democratic Black lawmaker whose South Charlotte district is largely white. “There is a way to talk about it that is truthful” and does not cross racial lines, he said.

The campaigns themselves have steered clear of charging racism.

Dory MacMillan, a spokeswoman for Ms. Beasley, said, “Our race remains a dead heat, despite Congressman Budd and his allies’ spending millions of dollars to distort Cheri’s record of public service.”

In Wisconsin, a spokeswoman for Mr. Barnes, Maddy McDaniel, similarly declined to go further than to say that “the G.O.P.’s fear-mongering playbook failed them last cycle, and it will fail again.”

Mr. Barnes, for his part, seemed to make playful use of his portrayal in one of the Republican attack ads as “different” during his first debate with Senator Ron Johnson, the two-term incumbent. He was, indeed, different, Mr. Barnes said, “We don’t have enough working-class people in the United States Senate.”

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