Foley campaign ad (screengrab)

The Republican gubernatorial primary race took a sharp turn into negative territory Wednesday when Tom Foley released a new ad likening his opponent, John McKinney, to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and accusing both of raising taxes.

The 30-second ad frames Foley, the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, as a political “outsider,” while calling McKinney, the senate minority leader, and Malloy “career politicians.” The ad was produced by Doug McAuliffe Strategic + Creative, a firm based in Virginia.

The attack ad comes just a day before Foley and McKinney are expected to debate in a forum sponsored by the Hartford Courant, and represents a full departure from the agreeable tone the candidates set during their first debate. During that debate, both Republicans chose to criticize Malloy’s policies rather than attack each other.

Foley’s new ad, called “Outsider,” cast Malloy and McKinney in the same negative light. The first segment of the ad is darkly shaded with ominous clouds over the state capitol and pictures of Malloy and McKinney. The latter 15 seconds feature brightly colored snippets of Foley interacting with his family and people who appear to be business owners.

“Dan Malloy, John McKinney: career politicians, insiders, using worn-out policies that cost jobs and hurt the economy,” a narrator says.

The narrator accuses both men of voting for higher taxes. The ad cites McKinney’s support for a 2005 bill which has increased the gas tax in the years since. The bill had broad, bipartisan support including unanimous support in the Senate, and funded transportation infrastructure improvements.

Foley’s new ad, although it is decidedly more negative, could be viewed as a response to McKinney’s first 30-second spot, released Tuesday. That ad, narrated by McKinney, was critical of Foley for saying he did not intend to cut state spending if elected governor. Foley has stated that he will hold spending level. In the ad, McKinney says he is the only candidate who intends to cut spending and shrink the size of government.

The ad features a video clip of Foley saying, “I’m not going to cut spending.” The video rewinds then repeats before McKinney appears on screen and says, “That’s not going to fix the problem.”

Wednesday, Foley spokesman Chris Cooper said their ad “would have been different if Senator McKinney had not opened with his ad.”

In a statement, McKinney characterized his campaign commercial as an effort to highlight differences between he and Foley. He called Foley’s ad a distortion.

“Tom Foley’s new ad attacking me as an insider has come earlier than we anticipated, but proves what we have known all along — this is a real race that’s getting closer every day and momentum has shifted in our favor,” he said. “Within 48 hours of launching our first ad focused on the real differences between us, Mr. Foley has resorted to distorting the facts in order to avoid the real issue — I have a plan to fix Connecticut and Tom Foley does not.”

Republicans will go to the polls in less than a month on Aug. 12 to pick a nominee for governor. Foley won the endorsement of Republican delegates at the convention in May and has a clear lead over McKinney in the most recent public polling results. Polling also suggest that voters are evenly split between supporting Foley and Malloy, who defeated Foley by just 6,404 votes in 2010.

The Malloy campaign did not immediately return calls for comment on this story.

Malloy does not face a primary opponent but his campaign began airing its own TV spot this week highlighting his handling of the natural disasters that have impacted the state, along with the Sandy Hook School shooting, and the $3.67 billion, single-year budget deficit he inherited when he took office.

“Through it all, Dan Malloy has been strong . . . steady . . . by our side,” a narrator says in Malloy’s ad.