The year was 1990. US Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) was making another bid for re-election. His opponent that year was the former Mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt. This contest would prove to be the biggest challenge to Helms in his electoral career. With one ad, though, the fortunes for a Gantt victory were quashed. This ad below introduced the issue of racial quotas into the Helms/Gantt election. The ad also received plenty of national attention.
Helms would end up winning the election 52.5% to 47.5%. Helms and Gantt met in a rematch six years later, with Helms garnering 52.6% of the vote to Gantt’s 45.9%. In today’s political climate, candidates who run for President, US Senate, and House have to identify an ad with the phrase, “I approve this message” as an acknowledgement to the public that they paid for the ad. This is so because of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002. Now that candidates have to admit that they are the sponsors of the ad, do you think such an ad as the one above could exist on the air today? (This ad, by the way, was paid for by the Helms campaign. The poor quality of the video makes it difficult to see the written disclosure.)