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GOP pulling W.Va. Senate ad with 'hicky' actors

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--National Republicans pulled back a West Virginia Senate ad Thursday after Democrats revealed its casting call had sought actors who looked like hicks to play state voters.

The 30-second spot, filmed in Philadelphia, was dropped from the National Republican Senatorial Committee's YouTube channel Thursday.

Republicans expected it to also be withdrawn from TV, where it has been in heavy rotation since Tuesday, according to a party official not directly involved in handling the ad. The official was not authorized to comment and requested anonymity.

The ad showed men in flannel shirts and baseball caps worrying that Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin would side with President Barack Obama if elected to the Senate.

It's a theme the GOP has been hammering in the battle to replace the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. But the Republican nominee, businessman John Raese, denounced the ad.

"The ad is ridiculous and I am happy to say that no one with the Raese campaign had anything to do with it," Raese spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said.

The casting call listed clothing options including trucker or "John Deer" hats that are "not brand new, preferably beat up," as well as jeans, down-filled vests and "Dickie's type jacket with t-shirt underneath."

"We are going for a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look," it said. "These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks."

The NRSC blamed the wording on Philadelphia-based Kathy Wickline Casting, which declined comment when contacted Thursday.

"No one at the NRSC, or associated with the NRSC, had anything to do with the language used in this casting call," spokesman Brian Walsh said.

The NRSC provided a Sept. 27 e-mail in which its production firm asked the casting company "for someone to represent the middle of the country Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia area."

The casting call was first reported by the website Politico. The NRSC has spent an estimated $3.5 million on the ad and others in the closely fought race, which the GOP believes it has a shot at winning.

Manchin and Democrats called the ad an insult.

"Not only have they been spending millions to try and buy this election with lies and distortions, we can now see once and for all what (Raese) and his friends really think of West Virginia and our people," Manchin said in a statement.

Later Thursday, Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, called for the resignation of state GOP Chairman Mike Stuart, after the official said he had "no problem whatsoever" with the ad.

"I think Stuart should have a big problem with the ad, and the fact he doesn't means he shouldn't be representing a major political party in West Virginia," Perdue said in a news release. "It's outrageous, totally unacceptable and just demonstrates the low opinion some big-wig Republicans have of working West Virginians."

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper also reacted with outrage to the news Thursday afternoon.

Carper wrote to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, asking for a public apology.

In the letter, Carper said he is a West Virginian first and a Democrat second.

"Surely, Mr. Raese has, or will, likewise demand that you take this ad down and apologize on his behalf as well," Carper wrote.

"Stereotyping the most patriotic, hardworking people in this country is deserving of both an apology from you and the candidate you support.

"I know Joe Manchin," Carper's letter continues. "He is a true West Virginian who loves his state and his country. He deserves better than fake actors from Philadelphia making fun of us all."

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce joined Carper's call for an apology to West Virginia's residents and workers, who one official said should "be offended."

"We are some of this nation's hardest workers. We produce the energy that powers much of the east coast of our country," said Chamber President Steve Roberts. "No desire to win an election should result in belittling West Virginia's hardworking citizens."

Staff writer Billy Wolfe contributed to this report.



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