Tuesday's special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, the most expensive House race in U.S. history, became a race for the airwaves.
About $42 million has been spent or reserved for TV and radio ads leading up to the showdown between Republican candidate Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff, according to an election-eve analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. More than half of that has been committed since the first round of voting in April, when a run-off election narrowed the field to Ossoff and Handel, as they vie to fill the seat vacated by Republican Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
Political ads, many of them attack ads, have inundated voters in the Atlanta suburbs in what is expected to be a tight race. Democrats are looking to make the race a referendum against President Donald Trump, as Republicans try to keep a seat Price had held since 2004.
Ossoff's campaign so far has raised $23 million in 2017, and spent nearly $22 million, while Handel's campaign has raised $4.5 million and spent a little more than $3 million, according to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That doesn't include spending from outside groups.
The politically charged, high-stakes race has fueled negative and controversial TV and radio ads, as well as digital ads.
Both Ossoff and Handel condemned an outside group's attack ad that ran over the weekend, after a shooting at a congressional baseball practice near Washington, D.C., last weekend left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise critically injured. The ad, produced by the obscure Principled Leadership Project PAC, accuses the "unhinged left" of fueling violence against Republicans. The ad opens with the sound of gunshots, picturing Scalise being whisked away on a stretcher.
"Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans," the ad says. "When will it stop? It won't if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday. Because the same unhinged leftists cheering last week's shooting are all backing Jon Ossoff. And if he wins, they win."
Even though Ossoff and Handel have denounced the ad, the group behind it has refused to back down.
In another controversial attack ad, the pro-Trump Great America Alliance political action committee ran a radio spot aimed to stifle the African-American vote for Ossoff with President Barack Obama's own words -- except, they weren't really Obama's words. The ad used Obama's voice as he read a passage from his book, Dreams From My Father. The passage Obama is reading, however, is a quote from a barber talking about Chicago's first black mayor.
"Plantation politics," the ad says, in Obama's voice. "Black people in the worst jobs. The worst housing. Police brutality rampant. But when the so-called black committeemen came around election time, we'd all line up and vote the straight Democratic ticket. Sell our souls for a Christmas turkey."
Then, the narrator, a black conservative named Autry Pruitt tells voters, "Let's not sell out for another Christmas turkey. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Democrats keep taking our votes for granted."
But the ad left off the context before those words, which reveals the barber is expressing how the black vote was taken for granted before the election of the first black mayor. The full context shows that the passage is about how positive things come from voting, PolitiFact pointed out, rating the ad "pants on fire" - in other words, a lie.
Another attack ad against Ossoff airing in May thanked him for his policies, featuring hipsters and hippies in San Francisco lauding the Democrat as, "one of us."
"We already have Nancy Pelosi as our congresswoman, now you're going to give us Jon Ossoff as our congressman," one person in the ad says, attempting to tie him to the liberal Democratic House leader. In another shot, the ad shows a cable car with Ossoff's picture, dubbing him, "San Francisco's congressman."
That ad was a part of a $6.5 million investment in the campaign from the Congressional Leadership Fund political action committee. But San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency threatened the Congressional Leadership Fund with a cease-and-desist letter, saying the group never received permission to use the cable car in its ad and forcing the Super PAC to remove the cable car from the ad.
Ossoff has also put up its own negative ads, although not quite as controversial as the ones targeting him. His campaign, for instance, released an ad slamming Handel over her time as an executive at the Susan G. Komen Foundation, featuring an OBGYN from Georgia who says Handel "cut off" funding for Planned Parenthood cancer screenings.
"I don't usually get involved in politics, but as a doctor and a breast cancer survivor myself, what Karen Handel did is unforgivable," the OBGYN says in the ad.