National GOP group targets Calif. attorney general candidate Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, district attorney of San Francisco, Democratic candidate for Attorney General
Kamala Harris, district attorney of San Francisco, Democratic candidate for Attorney General

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A national Republican group has purchased more than one million in TV ads attacking the Democratic Party’s nominee for California Attorney General, Kamala Harris. National GOP groups are flush with campaign cash this year, and are able to exert influence in more races than in the past.

In its ad, the Virginia-based Republican State Leadership Committee highlights San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ opposition to the death penalty. It features the mother of a slain police officer.

“Our son was killed in the line of duty with an AK-47 by a gang member," Daisy Espinoza says in the TV ad. An announcer says "even before his burial, Kamala Harris refused to seek the death penalty against his killer.”

Harris has said that she is morally opposed to capital punishment — but that she would defend the law if elected attorney general. She points out that four of the last seven state attorney generals shared her view.

Harris said the ad is an effort by Republicans to scare voters.

“It’s an ad that was pulled together by Karl Rove," Harris said. "It’s funded by tobacco companies and insurance companies and oil companies."

Scott Ward of the Republican State Leadership Committee denied any connection with Rove. He didn’t deny that his group receives money from tobacco, insurance and oil companies.

Those industries have a big interest in California’s next attorney general. He or she will decide, for example, whether to join other states suing the federal government over President Obama’s health care reform. Harris has promised she wouldn’t. Her Republican opponent Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley hasn’t ruled it out.

“The attorney general there holds a lot of power and so having a Republican attorney general I think is important as a model for the rest of the country," Ward said.

Cooley’s campaign said it was unaware that the national GOP group would get involved in the race.