Graphic: House Speaker Kirk Cox (R) and Democratic Nominee Sheila Bynum-Coleman (D)

As the race for Virginia’s 66th District house seat continues to heat up, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox has released an attack ad that his Democratic opponent says intentionally mischaracterizes her positions.

In the ad, Cox’s team uses a quote from a 2017 radio interview to make it sound like Democrat Sheila Bynum-Coleman wants police eliminated from schools entirely. Bynum-Coleman, whose father was a police officer, sharply disputed the commercial’s accuracy, saying it used a snippet of a longer interview to misrepresent her message. 

In the interview, Bynum- Coleman said that while police need to be in schools for safety, she didn’t want them involved in more minor disciplinary affairs.

Bynum-Coleman’s full quote in the interview reflected her fears that too much police involvement in daily life has a detrimental impact on students’ development.

“I think that we need to get the police out of the schools,” she said. “The police need to be there for safety measures and to make sure the school is safe, not to incarcerate children and deal with disciplinary actions. And that’s what’s taking place, and so the school-to-prison pipeline is exploding.”

Cox is running to hold onto a House seat that he’s held for 29 years. He’s in unchartered waters, however, after a federal court ordered that his district be redrawn to to eliminate racial gerrymandering. His district is now markedly less white and Republican as a result, putting Cox in his first tight race in years.

Until this point, Cox’s messaging has remained mostly upbeat, but as election date looms, the new ad reflects a shift in tone for the candidate. 

Cox has good reason to be concerned; his district shifted from leaning Republican by 26 points to favoring Democrats.