The founder of a new Republican group is defending an ad that aired during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate that featured a burning image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The New York Democrat criticized the spot as racist.
New Faces GOP was founded by Elizabeth Heng, who lost a House race in California last cycle. Heng, who is the PAC’s executive director, was featured in the 30-second TV ad, which ran both during and after the debate on ABC.
“This ad is about fighting the socialist agenda that has taken over the Democratic Party,” she said in a statement when asked to respond to Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism.
“I am not afraid to engage in a debate of ideas, and it is the AOC extremists that have to resort in name calling because they don’t have real solutions for our country,” she added.
Heng, a onetime staffer to former California GOP Rep. Ed Royce, lost a race for the state’s 16th District to Democratic Rep. Jim Costa by 15 points last fall. She recently founded the group to help diversify the Republican Party.
“This is the face of socialism. And, ignorance,” Heng says in the ad over an image of Ocasio-Cortez, which then starts burning to reveal images from the Cambodian genocide.
“Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism? My father was minutes from death in Cambodia, before a forced marriage saved his life,” Heng says in the ad. “That’s socialism. Forced obedience, starvation. Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white, I’m not outrageous, racist, nor socialist. I’m a Republican.”
New Faces GOP spent $100,000 on the ad buy, which aired in New York, the District of Columbia and Houston, where the debate took place.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to the ad on Twitter, writing, “Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist. Life is weird!” In a later tweet, she called the spot “a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case.”
New Faces GOP aims to support diverse Republican candidates running for office at local, state and the federal level through recruitment and training. The group considers the Thursday night ad as part of its launch and hasn’t started working with candidates.
According to a source with the group, New Faces GOP saw an increase in donations and signups for its email list Thursday night, although the extent of those donations and signups is not yet clear.