TV ads drive race for governor GOP's Sauerbrey takes lead over Glendening in television spending

Campaign 1998

October 06, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey has taken a clear lead over Gov. Parris N. Glendening in broadcast television spending in what promises to be the most expensive political media blitz in Maryland's history.

With a month remaining before Election Day, Sauerbrey has spent almost $2 million for general election advertising on the top television stations in the Baltimore and Washington markets -- more than the $1.8 million she raised for all purposes in 1994.

Meanwhile, Glendening has spent slightly less than $1.5 million at the eight stations for advertising since the Sept. 15 primary.

The figures show that Sauerbrey's spending has exceeded Glendening's in all but one week since the primary and that she has reserved more prepaid advertising time in each of the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 general election.

Sauerbrey's 57 percent to 43 percent lead in broadcast spending startled political analysts.

"It is surprising that she will have more money allocated for broadcast television than the incumbent governor," said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Survey Research, a political polling firm.

The combined total of $3.5 million -- an amount which will undoubtedly increase as more money rolls into the candidates -- ensures that the governor's race will shatter the previous record for media spending in a Maryland general election campaign. Both campaigns agree that the cost of television is the largest expense in what is turning into the most expensive gubernatorial race in Maryland history.

Comparable figures for broadcast spending in 1994 were not available, but the two campaigns' financial disclosures from that election show that the most they could have spent on electronic media in the general election was about $2.9 million.

This year's spending figures were obtained from files at the television stations, which are required to make records of political ad spending available.

The records offer clues about how much money the two candidates are raising in the closely contested race. Their finances are largely in the shadows because of the gap between the last required campaign finance report Sept. 4 and the next disclosure Oct. 23.

In September, Glendening reported about $2 million on hand out of $4 million raised, while Sauerbrey had about $1.4 million of the $3.2 million she had taken in. But since the primary, Sauerbrey has held a series of high-profile fund-raisers with national Republican figures, putting her well past the $4 million mark.

Political analysts said Sauerbrey's generous television budget is sign of her fund-raising success since the last campaign finance report.

Herbert Smith, a political science professor at Western Maryland College, said the spending indicates that "pragmatic money" -- from interests that do business with or are regulated by the state -- is swinging behind Sauerbrey. That would be a contrast from 1994, when Sauerbrey accepted public financing for a campaign that came within 6,000 votes of defeating Glendening.

Peter Hamm, a spokesman for Glendening, said the totals are not an indication that the governor's campaign is falling behind Sauerbrey in fund raising. "We're very comfortable with the amount of advertising we're doing right now," he said. "We're going to be competitive with her."

But Haller questioned whether Glendening would be sitting on his cash when Sauerbrey has seized the momentum and caught up in the polls. "He's lost some ground, so you can't just wait to the bitter end," Haller said. "If he's got the resources, why is he holding back?"

Carol Hirschburg, a spokeswoman for Sauerbrey, said the campaign's fund raising is going "very, very well" -- with almost $1 million collected in September. "We don't anticipate any slackening of the pace," she said.

The combined $3.5 million in television spending does not include the hundreds of thousands spent by Glendening and Sauerbrey and their unsuccessful challengers on television ads in the primary. Nor does it include the cost of producing the ads.

The total also does not include the relatively modest cost of television ads in Hagerstown and Salisbury and on second-tier stations in the Baltimore-Washington region. Media professionals say the top stations in the Baltimore and Washington markets will easily account for 90 percent of all television ad spending.

Viewers will get no respite from the barrage of political ads over the next four weeks. Station records indicate that Sauerbrey will be spending a minimum of about $45,000 a day on television advertising, while Glendening has purchased television time equivalent to about $34,000 a day.

The figures also underscore the financial burden of television advertising -- especially in the crucial Washington market, where Maryland candidates' messages will be wasted on millions of Virginia and District of Columbia residents.

The two candidates have spent 68 percent of their combined television expenditures in the Washington area, with Sauerbrey spending more than Glendening.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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