U.S. Senate candidates launch new ad campaigns

September 15, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

With a volley of television messages from the incumbent, a multimedia advertising war begins in earnest today in Maryland's 1992 race for the U.S. Senate.

In her race against Republican Alan L. Keyes, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the Democrat, will begin to run ads this morning on Baltimore area television stations.

The Mikulski ads are designed to reintroduce the former congresswoman and former Baltimore City Council member to Marylanders and to offer specifics of her record as a first-term senator.

"People have a general sense of who she is and what she has done but we want to reinforce it," said Maggie McIntosh, the senator's campaign manager.

She said the Mikulski campaign has as much as $1.3 million to spend on television if necessary. That budget is based on the high cost of television advertising time in the Washington market and on the belief that the opposition would be spending a similar or higher amount.

Mr. Keyes has been reintroducing himself as well, using $2,000-a-week radio ads and billboards. The campaign is conserving its cash, but a television offensive will come later, said press secretary Sean Paige. Mr. Keyes ran for the U.S. Senate in 1988 against Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

For several weeks, Mr. Keyes has been running 60-second radio spots that focus on the plight of black families in America, past, present and future.

The billboards will feature a picture of Mr. Keyes, who is black, and a question: "Why Not One Of Us?" A press release announcing the billboard campaign offers an explanation of its underlying concept:

"Why did Keyes choose the slogan, 'Why Not One of Us?' Because Alan clearly has more in common with the average Marylander than Mikulski does," Mr. Paige said in the release. "He's a family man who shares their circumstances, values and common-sense approach to problems. And he shares their frustrations with the way things have been going in Washington."

Mr. Paige said use of "Why Not One of Us?" as a slogan did not go beyond his explanation, but he did concede that the campaign wants voters in Baltimore, many of whom are black, to know that the Republican is black. The billboard message will appear after Sunday at about a dozen sites around the city.

The radio ads, Mr. Paige said, "were intended to put Alan's candidacy and the message of empowerment it conveys in a larger historical and cultural context for folks in the African-American community."

In the radio ads, Mr. Keyes discusses the historically strong tradition of family among blacks, a tradition he says has been undermined by wrong-headed social policy and "politics." In 1925, he says, a study showed that five of every six children lived in households with both a mother and a father.

"Despite slavery, Jim Crow, and economic discrimination, the black family unit was strong and remained together.

"I think our real roots are not so far behind us that we can't reclaim the dignity that was once ours," Mr. Keyes says in one of the ads.

Ms. Mikulski's advertisements come with references to support their assertions. Her 30-second ad says Ms. Mikulski was one of the few U.S. Senators to focus on the need for research into diseases affecting women -- ovarian and breast cancer as well as osteoporosis. Her intervention resulted in more money for research, the ad says.

The biographical spot reminds voters that the senator grew up in East Baltimore, helped in her father's corner store, went to college and became a social worker. And it recalls her original claim to political fame, her fight against a superhighway aimed at East Baltimore.

Her ads seek to position her as running against the grain of politics in 1992, a year in which incumbent legislators are targeted by voters angry about what many regard as an unresponsive Congress. "At a time when many politicians have lost their way, Barbara Mikulski is different," the biographical ad says near its conclusion.

Ms. McIntosh, the incumbent's campaign manager, said Ms. Mikulski's wide lead in the polls gives her the luxury of focusing, not on the attacks of her opponent, but on her background and record. If the race tightens, the tone of the advertisements might be different, Ms. McIntosh said.

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