A local political action committee compares a handful of Anoka County conservative candidates to real-life war criminals and calls them ‘Hazzard County’s most wanted’, a reference to a TV comedy from 40 years ago .
The so-called 763 PAC ran an ad in Friday’s Star Tribune featuring headshot photos of Anoka County leaders alongside photos of Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Muammar Gaddafi and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein .
Ad politicians fired back on Friday, calling 763 PAC irrelevant and saying it had an inconsequential social media following — including 108 Twitter followers — who weren’t in touch with county voters. from Anoka.
“Nobody takes them seriously. Their playbook is pathetic,” said Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look. “I’m amused by some of the nonsense they’re willing to spend money on.”
Other candidates featured in the announcement are Anoka County Board Chair Scott Schulte and Vice Chair Julie Braastad; Dave Clark, former Blaine City Councilman, who is running for an open seat on County Council; State Representative Nolan West, R-Blaine; and Champlin Republican Karen Attia, candidate for the state Senate.
Also pictured is County Commissioner Robyn West, who is not seeking re-election. His photo is stamped “CAPTURED”, just like the photos of Hussein, Stalin, Mussolini, Gaddafi and Epstein.
The ad doesn’t address the issues, but says, “Remember to vote November 8th for prosperity and reject fascism!” The PAC’s name refers to the Anoka County area code: 763.
PAC founders Clayton Kearns and Michael Schardin, residents of Anoka County, said Friday they were nonpartisan and simply wanted to promote prosperity in their community. They said the candidates featured in the ad did not.
“If you look around the metro, you see that Anoka County doesn’t have the good stuff that the southern metro has, that the western metro has. Why is that?” said Kearns, who works in advertising. “It’s because we had bad leadership. The whole purpose of the PAC is to shed some light on that.”
Schulte called the PAC and its two main supporters irrelevant and important. At one point they helped his campaign, he said, but “backfired” when he refused to sign their prosperity pledge this year.
He said he was proud that the county had no levy increase for the third straight year and that the county board secured more than $300 million in federal, state and local funding to improve the U.S. Highway 10.
“They’re really just anti-conservative and anti-Republican,” Schulte said. “I don’t know what their motivation is other than it’s kind of an anti-establishment movement.”
Kearns and Schardin said Anoka County Council is a big part of the problem, in how it handles departments and what it lobbies for in the Legislative Assembly. “They keep the levy at an unsustainable level,” Schardin said.
So they said they were using satire to draw attention to the County Board, an often overlooked layer of government. This is the second time the PAC has run a Most Wanted ad in the Star Tribune.
“People need to realize what’s going on at the county level,” Kearns said.
The 763 PAC, which had a cash balance of $74.18 as of September 20, first registered with the state in May 2016. It has never reported a contribution balance greater than 2,500 $. Most of his expenses went to print advertising.
The PAC relies heavily on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to share its messages, which include endorsements of some local candidates and attacks on others.
Look said the Most Wanted ad last time out actually boosted support for conservative incumbents. He said some of their personal attacks on social media had crossed a line and he could sue for libel after the election.
Tom Horner, a public relations professional and former Independence Party candidate for governor, said the announcement was clearly a provocative attempt but may have missed the mark.
“It just seemed to be confusing and unclear who you’re supposed to vote for and who you’re supposed to vote against,” Horner said. “I thought the ad was a waste of money.”
Hazzard County was the fictional backdrop for “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a farce that aired on CBS from 1979 to 1985 about two cousins on probation for moonlighting in rural Georgia. One of their sworn enemies was a corrupt county commissioner named Boss Hogg.