This story was updated May 23, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.
NASHVILLE — A Tennessee-based Super PAC is targeting Republican gubernatorial candidate Diane Black in its first television ad buy, attacking the congresswoman for her support as a state senator of 2001 legislation that allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver's licenses.
The 30-second spot, airing across much of the state, is paid for by Tennessee Jobs Now PAC, a Super PAC funded mostly by multimillionaire businessman Joe Hollingsworth, who contributed $8,000 to Republican Randy Boyd, who is among candidates vying with Black in the Aug. 2 GOP primary.
"MS-13 gang member? Driver's license. Terrorist? Driver's license. Human trafficker? Driver's license," a female announcer says as a series of mocked up Tennessee driver's licenses flash on the screen. "In the legislature, Diane Black voted to give Tennessee driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
"Then in Washington," the ad continues, "Black voted against funding President Trump's border wall. Diane Black is making it easier for criminals, even terrorists, to come here illegally and stay. Dishonest Diane Black. Good for illegal immigrants, bad for Tennessee."
The ad concludes with a mocked up photo license of Black, describing her as "Dishonest Diane Black - Career Politician" as a red bold-lettered stamp pops up, saying "Bad for Tennessee."
Black's campaign chairman, former Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, fought back in a statement, laying blame for the Tennessee Jobs Now PAC ad at the feet of the Boyd campaign.
"I served with Diane in the state legislature," Ramsey said. "There is no one more committed to the safety and security of Tennesseans than her. Everyone knows this group is a front for Randy Boyd. If Randy wants to run false, negative ads, he should have the courage to do it himself and stop hiding behind a shady PAC funded by a long-time Democrat."
Boyd's campaign did not respond to a request to comment on Ramsey's allegation.
Hollingsworth is the father of U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind., elected to Congress in 2016. During the Indiana campaign, a PAC called Indiana Jobs Now spent heavily in the race. The Tennessee PAC's website is registered to the same GOP operative, James McKay of New Hampshire, The Tennessee Journal has reported.
While in the Tennessee Legislature, Black and many other Republicans supported legislation by Republican Gov. Don Sundquist that allowed persons who entered the U.S. illegally to obtain state driver's licenses. The administration's argument was that it would ensure undocumented people who at least knew how to drive. Black later joined an effort to repeal the law.
As for the ad's charge that Black voted against funding for Trump's border wall on the border with Mexico this year, the congresswoman voted against a bill to keep the federal government operating. It did not provide funding for an actual "border wall."
It did provide $1.6 billion for border security. Forbes reported the funding couldn't be used for "the wall." Language in the bill only allows fencing similar to what's already in place.
The ad cites as its source U.S. House Resolution 1623. According to the House website, the bill, introduced in 2017, prohibits the U.S. Department of Energy from making any additional awards or loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program created in 2007.
It remains in the House Subcommittee on Energy.
Illegal immigration and undocumented immigrants remain a hot issue with the Republican base and have been a feature of the GOP primary, with Black hitting the issue repeatedly and her campaign taking an occasional swipe at Boyd.
Last October, for example, Black's campaign issued a news release attacking Boyd, a marathon runner who was running in stages across Tennessee, charging that "with a conservative record almost as short as his shorts, it's no surprise Randy Boyd is trying to run from his record."
The Black campaign accused Boyd of "trying to hide his moderate record," charging among other things that it includes "supporting illegal immigration."
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, another GOP gubernatorial hopeful, noted to the Tennessean newspaper last week that she voted to repeal the Tennessee driver's license law in 2007. Also running in the GOP primary is Franklin businessman Bill Lee.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.