Newport News Republican City Committee Chairman Chuck Young says the negative ads toward the end of the race hurt Mickey Chohany's campaign against Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News.
"I was disappointed for Mickey Chohany," Young said. "I thought it was a close result for a closely contested election."
But Young said a state party ad that tried to link Miller to imprisoned former Del. Phil Hamilton, R-Newport News, ultimately backfired with voters. The ad slammed Miller for backing legislation to give Virginia aviation companies tax breaks before getting a job at Orion, a company that benefited from the exemptions.
The implication was that Miller used his position to gain employment, as Hamilton did to get a job at a teacher training center at Old Dominion University. Hamilton was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in jail on federal corruption charges.
Chohany asked state party officials to pull Hamilton's image from the television ad and a mailer, calling the images "gratuitous and unnecessary portrayals."
Miller fired back with a negative ad of his own, blasting Chohany for health citations received at his restaurant. But Young said the fallout from the initial ads featuring Hamilton threw Chohany off message against the incumbent Miller.
"I think it immediately reminds us that running a positive, values-oriented campaign is always the right strategy. When we get diverted from that, we don’t do the voters any service," Young said.
Young contrasted the race with the successful campaigns of David Yancey, who was elected to the 94th District House of Delegates seat, and Mike Watson, who defeated Del. Robin Abbott, D-Newport News.
"I think voters are looking to find the qualities of the person running and don’t like negative campaigns," Young said.
David Rexrode, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, said he had no regrets about the ads tying Miller to Hamilton.
"I don’t think we would have done anything different," Rexrode said. "I think it's an issue that the voters should hear about."
Rexrode said he didn't think the negative ad was to blame for Chohany's loss, but blamed redistricting of Miller's seat by the then Democrat-controlled Senate. "Democrats drew the lines in a very particular manner to protect their incumbents," Rexrode said.