The super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan is doubling down on its messaging strategy to paint vulnerable Rep. Dave Brat’s Democratic challenger in Virginia’s 7th District as sympathetic to terrorist elements.
In a new ad released Thursday, and shared first with Roll Call, Congressional Leadership Fund once again highlights Democrat Abigail Spanberger’s stint as a substitute teacher at the Saudi-funded Islamic Saudi Academy in Mount Vernon, Virginia, that began in 2002.
Spanberger taught at the school for less than a year as she waited for the CIA and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, where she later went on to work, to process her security clearance applications.
“We already know some of Abigail Spanberger’s secrets,” the ad begins.
“Teaching at ‘Terror High,’ then trying to hide it from us,” the narrator continues, as the screen flashes to Spanberger’s face between images of two former students of the Islamic Saudi Academy who were later apprehended for links to terrorism.
The school earned the nickname “Terror High” after the 2005 class valedictorian later admitted to joining al-Qaida and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for plotting to kill President George W. Bush.
The ad, which follows a similar one released earlier this month, also highlights Spanberger’s support of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration in 2015 that President Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this year.
“Virginians are learning about Spanberger’s radical policies like giving $100 billion to the leading sponsor of terrorism,” CLF spokeswoman Courtney Alexander said in a statement, referring to Iran. “The more Virginia families learn about Abigail Spanberger, the worse it gets.”
The ad will run on television in the Richmond media market and on digital platforms throughout the district.
Spanberger waved off CLF’s first “Terror High” ad as “desperate and weak” and touted her time working at the Islamic Saudi Academy for helping her understand different languages and cultures during her eight-year career at the CIA.
On Thursday, her campaign once again dismissed CLF’s ad and pointed out that the CIA and USPIS ran an extensive background check on her, later clearing her to work as an overseas agent combating terrorism.
“These ongoing attacks by Dave Brat and his allies are laughable considering Abigail’s record of service in law enforcement, at the CIA, and in our community,” the Spanberger campaign’s communications director, Justin Jones, said in a statement.
“Abigail remains focused on listening to and addressing the concerns of the voters across the district,” Jones said.
Republican strategists close to the race have said Brat was on a track to lose in November before the CLF ran its first ad. The negative image they’re portraying of Spanberger is working, they have said.
The 7th District race garnered national attention in late August after reports that the United States Postal Service — where Spanberger was an inspector at the agency’s law enforcement branch in the mid-2000s — had improperly released her confidential security clearance form to a Republican political opposition research firm, America Rising.
That comprehensive clearance form included a section on her employment history, where she listed her teaching role at the Islamic Saudi Academy.
From documents obtained and reviewed by Roll Call, America Rising appeared to have filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Spanberger’s releasable materials, but was instead given her full, unredacted Official Personnel File.
It’s still unclear whether the CLF’s aggressive strategy to link Spanberger to the school has helped Brat in the polls since there was no public polling before CLF’s first ad was released.
A Monmouth University poll released Tuesday showed Spanberger leading Brat by 5 points among potential voters. The incumbent held a 4-point edge among likely voters in a New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll from earlier this month. Both results were within the surveys’ margins of error.
Brat, a member of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, is best known for upsetting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 GOP primary. He won a second term two years ago by 15 points, while Trump carried the 7th District by 7 points.
Watch: 12 House Ratings Changes — Democrats Are More Likely Than Not to Win Majority