Attack ads fly in House District 27 seat

“Hurtful” and “transphobic” ads sponsored by committees on both sides

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The race for State House District 27, has gotten ugly, thanks to negative ads launched by independent groups that both the Democratic and Republican candidates call false and misleading.

Brianna Titone, Colorado’s first openly-transgender lawmaker, who is running for re-election to her HD 27 seat serving western Arvada, says a new attack ad that refers to her by her former name is both transphobic and “patently false.”

The Facebook ad, which was created by a group called Take Back Colorado, is titled “History of Violence.” It claims that Titone has “always supported violence” and states that when Titone was known by the name she used prior to her gender transition that her girlfriend called the police because of her “violent temper.”

Later in the ad, a narrator states that Titone now “puts out violent, extremist language on social media” while a Twitter reply from an account belonging to Titone stating “we should at least be given the right to punch someone in the face for doing that” is shown on the screen.” The ad does not show the statement or content that Titone was responding to.

Titone said that in addition to being presented without context, the tweets are so blurry in the ad that “she can’t look at what they are trying to talk about.”

“What are you trying to hide if you can’t show it in a resolution that is readable?” said Titone.

MORE: Jefferson County candidate Q&As and election news

Titone said the ad is transphobic because it refers to her by her old name without her consent, a practice known as deadnaming. A Facebook post by the National Center for Lesbian Rights said dead naming is a form of harassment that can feel invalidating to a trans person’s identity.

“If you’re a polite person with any humanity you don’t do that to a trans person,” said Titone. “You don’t use their dead name. It’s hurtful, it’s harmful, that’s something we don’t do.”

Jacob McWilliams, a transgender man who serves as the director of CU Denver’s women and gender center, said the ad’s use of Titone’s old name is unnecessary because it doesn’t tell people something about Titone they don’t already know since she is openly-transgender.

“It’s a transphobic dog whistle,” said McWilliams. “It is making her gender identity an issue and reinforcing transphobic beliefs that she is not really a woman which is dangerous for all trans people. Especially to use it to score political points when her prior name has nothing to do with her prior skills as a legislator just seems like an unnecessary low blow.”

In addition to deadnaming, Titone said the ad also uses two transphobic tropes against her: the suggestion that she is violent and another that she sexualizes children. The claim that she sexualizes children is accompanied by a photo of Titone’s retweet of an article about an eight-year-old boy who enjoys dressing in girl’s clothing.

“They love to thrown in children whenever they talk about trans people because they like to associate trans people with pedophilia and violence against kids and that is a dangerous myth that they are trying to perpetuate and project onto me and its ridiculous,” she said.

Titone said the ad appears to her to be an attempt to point out that she is trans and suggest trans people are bad without explicitly saying it. She also disputed the ad’s assertion that Titone’s former girlfriend called the police because of Titone’s violent temper.

Domestic incident

In 2012, Titone’s former girlfriend called police the day after an argument with Titone.

A police report filed about the incident said Titone had been “yelling at her and following her around the house.” However, the report stated that the officer chose to close the case without recommending charges be filed. The reasons given were that Titone’s girlfriend told the officer Titone neither touched her nor impeded her movement. Titone also denied to police the argument had reached the level of yelling.

“The report says exactly the opposite of what the ad is insinuating,” Titone said. “Even the person who reported me said I did not do anything to anybody. Their claims they are trying to drum up are completely false.”

Take Back Colorado is registered to Joe Neville, whose brother is current Republican House Minority Leader Patrick Neville.

According to Colorado’s TRACER campaign finance system, Take Back Colorado spent $298,165.77 on different election races between Dec. 7, 2018 and Oct. 14, 2020. Joe Neville did not respond to a request for comment.

In a Facebook post promoting the ad, Neville wrote: “If you want to help a group that isn’t pulling punches, works with grassroots and isn’t owned by the establishment check out takebackco.org.”

Pyne “surprised” by ad

Jonah Hearne, the campaign manager for Titone’s Republican opponent, Vicki Pyne, said both he and Pyne were surprised by the release of the ad, which he said he had not known about prior to its release.

“Obviously, in no way is that the type of campaign we have been running and it’s not the type of campaign that we like to see in politics,” he said.

Hearne said Pyne had also been disappointed by several negative attacks that had been run against her, too. They include one that Hearne said suggested that she wants to arm terrorists. Hearne said that ad was run by the Better Colorado Alliance Independent Expenditure Committee. Hearne said that while the video appears to have been removed from the web. The committee has also distributed mailers making the same claim.

According to Colorado TRACER, the Better Colorado Alliance Independent Expenditure Committee had spent $2,145,600.58 between Dec. 7, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2020, benefiting several Democratic candidates.

“Just because certain pro-Second amendment groups support her doesn’t mean she has signed onto any sort of agreement where she is going to completely deregulate everything and get rid of all background checks and things like that,” said Hearne. “Background checks are a legitimate part of regulations.”

That ad was particularly hurtful, Hearne said, because false assertions could create complications for Pyne in her job as the program director of CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties, an advocacy organization for child abuse victims.

When asked by Colorado Community Media about whether she condoned or endorsed those ads, Titone said she has made statements on both Facebook and Twitter stating that she had no affiliation with the negative ads and has no control over them. Titone said she herself has not been running any campaign ads. She also said she feels that some have been in bad taste but do not perpetuate any lies like the “History of Violence” ad does against her.

Titone said the ad in question also refers to Pyne’s answers to an National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund questionnaire to justify the attack.

According to the NRA-PVF website, Pyne is endorsed by the NRA. The website indicates that Pyne is “ a pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the candidate’s responses to the NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire and who does not have a voting record on Second Amendment issues.”

 

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