Negative ad alleging Rep. Hudson ‘skipped’ key military vote comes under fire

Hudson under COVID quarantine during vote but helped draft portions of bill

Rep. Richard Hudson speaks with supporters at a campaign event.

RALEIGH — In North Carolina’s most competitive congressional race, the 8th District fight between Republican incumbent Richard Hudson and former state Supreme Court associate justice Pat Timmons-Goodson, a negative campaign ad aimed at Hudson is drawing scrutiny as it gets a last-minute boost from additional PAC funding.

Both candidates are keen to show their support for the military and veterans, considering the world’s largest military base, Fort Bragg, lies within the district. Timmons-Goodson highlights being raised in a Fort Bragg family, with her father, Edward Timmons, a sergeant first class in the 82nd Airborne, often stationed on the base.

But independent backers of Timmons-Goodson are going beyond simply painting her as a “hometown challenger,” as she puts it; they are seeking to discredit Hudson’s image as a champion of the military and veterans. Both Hudson’s campaign and independent fact-checkers claim that an ad being used to cast doubt on his record is wrong on key details.

The ad, called “Skipped Out,” starts with an image of a wounded soldier being treated and then carried to a helicopter. The voice-over says, “They put their lives on the line every day, but Congressman Hudson skipped out on a vote to give our troops a hard-earned raise.” The ad concludes with the words, “Congressman Hudson is a disgrace.”

But a CBS-17 fact-check says, “the ad, produced by the Democrats’ House Majority PAC, leaves out some critical context,” and earns a rating of “mostly false.”

The context CBS-17 identifies includes the fact that during the vote in question, for the National Defense Authorization Act, Hudson was under a doctor-ordered quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19. A letter from Dr. Brian Monahan, who is the on-site physician for Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, recommended a 14-day quarantine, which ended after the vote.

The fact-check also points out that the vote was not expected to be close, passing 295-125; Hudson submitted an explanation on his absence for the official record, which stated his support for the bill; and he was involved in writing certain portions of the bill, notably, the 10% increase in hazard pay.

A fact-check on the ad also ran in N.C.’s McClatchy papers — The Charlotte Observer, Raleigh’s The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun in Durham — on Oct. 27, which said, “The ad opens with a factual statement, but displays inconsistencies and lacks context throughout the commercial.”

Hudson’s campaign filed a cease-and-desist letter to stations in the district that were airing the ad, but Greg Steele, a spokesman for Hudson’s campaign, told NSJ, they “received several vague responses,” but no commitments to stop airing the ad.

After an Oct. 21 announcement by pro-choice PAC Emily’s List, it appears the ad will even be seeing increased airtime.

“Hudson has failed to show up for North Carolinians — 272 times, to be exact,” said Melissa Williams, executive director of Emily’s List’s independent expenditure arm WOMEN VOTE!, in a press statement. The statement announced their partnership with House Majority PAC to spend an additional $920,000 airing “Skipped Out,” saying, “The ad exposes Congressman Hudson’s shameful record of voting against veterans.”

“Radical groups like Emily’s List are pouring money into Timmons-Goodson’s campaign because of her radical liberal views,” Hudson campaign manager Robert Andrews told NSJ in response. “She supports taxpayer-funded abortions on demand right up to and even after childbirth.”

Hudson held a virtual press event Oct. 20 with military members and veterans that support him, aiming to fight back against the accusation that he is neglecting their needs. The speakers were at times emotional as they spoke in defense of Hudson and his record, including a man who was severely injured by two IED attacks in Afghanistan, losing a leg and requiring multiple surgeries. He said Hudson visited him privately on multiple occasions when he was at low moments, adding, “You fight tirelessly for us, and for anyone to say otherwise is unfathomable to me.”

Another man, former special forces officer John Zumwalt, became emotional defending Hudson’s connections to the military community in greater Fayetteville. Zumwalt said of the ad’s claims, “We call that a lie. And we call people who tell lies — we call them liars.”

Candidates cannot legally coordinate with political action committees making independent expenditures in favor of their campaigns, so while the ad may benefit her chances on Election Day, Timmons-Goodson would not have participated in creating the ad or financing its distribution.

The fight between Hudson and Timmons-Goodson for N.C.’s 8th District is expected to be closer than Hudson’s prior races after redistricting added more Democratic-leaning areas. The Cook Political Report still lists the seat as a “Lean Republican,” but some polling has suggested the race could be close, creating a flurry of late spending.

Another high-profile race, that of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, also has a military-linked controversy in the final days of the campaign, as Cunningham is being investigated by the U.S. Army for possible misconduct. Cunningham, who serves with the Army Reserves’ XVIII Airborne Corps, also based out of Fort Bragg, has admitted to an inappropriate relationship with the wife of another soldier, an apparent violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.