Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Dems begin TV ad blitz for votes

By Nathan Leaf
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - With just a week to go before Election Day, cash-strapped Democrats began airing their first television ads for statewide candidates Monday.

Democratic campaign advisor Jerry Austin said a Democratic Party ad cost about $20,000 to produce. The party is spending more than $500,000 to run the ad in all Ohio's major media markets.

In a separate television ad, Democratic treasurer candidate Mary Boyle - who is running neck and neck with incumbent treasurer Joe Deters - asks voters to oust Mr. Deters so she can "restore trust and integrity" to the office.

The Democrats' ads join a deluge of political advertising on TV this week. The airwaves are so swamped that nearly one out of three ads are political spots, said Brian Lawlor, sales manager for WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.

Shows such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! will feature nothing but campaign ads because candidates want to reach older voters who are more likely to go to the polls.

Advertising during news programs will also be dominated by political messages as the campaigns attempt to grab well-educated viewers. Mr. Lawlor said the campaigns will bring in about $2 million in advertising for WCPO-TV this year.

The Democratic Party ad begins with animated elephants, complete with blankets labeled with the names of Republicans, running across a map of the state of Ohio. Lagging behind is a smaller elephant wearing a Taft blanket and ridden by "Taftquack," a cartoon duck with the head of Gov. Bob Taft that has been used in opponent Tim Hagan's Internet ads.

As the elephants leave the screen and pieces of Ohio begin to fall away, a narrator criticizes Republican leadership for driving up college tuition, unemployment and prescription drug prices.

Republican Party spokesman Jason Mauk dismissed the ad as a "cheap shot."

"If (the Democrats) had a substantive idea for every little cartoon animal they came up with, maybe the voters would respond," he said.

In an attempt to pull ahead in a race that is now a statistical dead heat, Ms. Boyle has spent more than $400,000 to run her TV message statewide.

The ad attacks Mr. Deters for "steering contributions from brokers to secret political accounts" and says Ms. Boyle will use her experience to ensure tax money is invested "safely and wisely." The ad also criticizes Mr. Deters for taking contributions from convicted Cleveland stockbroker Frank Gruttadauria.

Mr. Deters has already spent more than $1.6 million on TV.

Lisa Peterson, Mr. Deters campaign spokeswoman, said the ad is inaccurate.

"We'll put (Mr. Deters') fiscal experience up against (Ms. Boyle's) any day," she said.

Mr. Deters started running his own negative ad on TV Oct. 25. It criticizes Ms. Boyle for being a county commissioner when a Cuyahoga County investment fund collapsed in 1994, costing taxpayers more than $100 million. It also questions her experience and record of voting to increase taxes.

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