PAC newspaper ad compares conservative Anoka County candidates to war criminals

A grassroots political action committee has likened a handful of conservative Anoka County candidates to real-life war criminals and dubbed them “Hazzard County’s Most Wanted,” a nod to a backwoods television comedy from 40 years ago.

The so-called 763 PAC ran an ad in Friday’s Star Tribune with photos of Anoka County leaders alongside photos of Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Muammar Gaddafi and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Politicians in the ad hit back on Friday, calling the 763 PAC irrelevant and saying it had an inconsequential social media following — including 108 Twitter followers — who were out of touch with Anoka County voters.

“Nobody takes them seriously. Their playbook is pathetic,” said Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look. “I am amused by the nonsense they are willing to spend money on.”

Other candidates featured in the ad include Anoka County Board Chair Scott Schulte and Vice Chair Julie Braastad; Dave Clark, former Blaine City Councilman running for a vacant seat on the county board; State Assemblyman Nolan West, R-Blaine; and Champlin Republican Karen Attia, who is running for the Senate.

Also pictured is County Commissioner Robyn West, who is not seeking re-election. Her photo is stamped CAPTURED, as are the photos of Saddam, Stalin, Mussolini, Gaddafi and Epstein.

The ad doesn’t address issues, instead saying, “Remember to vote for prosperity and reject fascism on November 8!” The PAC’s name is a reference to the Anoka County area code: 763.

The PAC’s founders, Anoka County residents Clayton Kearns and Michael Schardin, said Friday they were impartial and simply wanted to promote prosperity in their community. They said the candidates featured in the ad don’t.

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“If you look around Metro, you see Anoka County doesn’t have the nice things that South Metro has that West Metro has. Why is that?” said Kearns, who works in advertising. “It’s because we had a bad lead. The whole focus of the PAC is to shine a light on that.”

Schulte called the PAC and its two main supporters irrelevant and self-important. They used to contribute to his campaign, he said, but “turned against him” when he refused to sign their prosperity pledge this year.

He said he is proud that the county will not have a tax increase for the third straight year and that the county council has secured more than $300 million in federal, state and local funding to improve Highway 10.

“They’re really just anti-conservative and anti-Republican,” Schulte said. “I don’t know what their motivation is, other than it’s some kind of motivation [of] anti-establishment movement.”

Kearns and Schardin said the Anoka County Board is a big part of the problem, how it manages departments and what it advocates for in the legislature. “They keep the levy unsustainably low,” Schardin said.

So they said they use satire to draw attention to the county board, an often overlooked level of government. This is the second time the PAC has run a Most Wanted ad in the Star Tribune.

“People need to recognize what’s going on at the county level,” Kearns said.

The 763 PAC, which had a cash balance of $74.18 as of September 20, was first registered with the state in May 2016. It has never reported contribution credits exceeding $2,500. Most of the spending went to print advertising.

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The PAC relies heavily on social media like Twitter and Facebook to share its messages, which include supporting some local candidates and attacking others.

Look said the Most Wanted ad actually bolstered support for Conservative incumbents last time out. He said some of her personal attacks on social media had crossed a line and that he might pursue a defamation lawsuit after the election.

Tom Horner, a public relations professional and former Independence Party candidate for governor, said the ad was clearly an attempt to provoke but may have missed the mark.

“It just seemed confusing and not clear about who to vote for and who to vote against,” Horner said. “I thought the ad was a waste of money.”

Hazzard County was the fictional setting for The Dukes of Hazzard, a farce that ran on CBS from 1979 to 1985 about two cousins ​​who are on probation for running moonshiners in rural Georgia. One of her nemesis was a corrupt county commissioner named Boss Hogg.