Shriver TV campaign ad focuses on legislative record, not family

August 16, 2002|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

SILVER SPRING - State Del. Mark K. Shriver offered a preview of his first televised campaign ad for Congress yesterday and, notably, it didn't mention his middle name of Kennedy or allude to the family's legacy.

Nor do his handlers expect to use Kennedy references in future campaign spots, although they won't rule out that possibility.

"I won't say never, but Mark is interested in talking about his track record fighting for people," said Mike Henry, his campaign manager.

The 30-second introductory spot, which begins airing today in the Washington-area market, launches what is expected to be a flood of commercials by Democratic candidates in the 8th District congressional primary - the nation's most expensive House race in money raised.

The commercial is produced by Axelrod & Associates, a political consulting firm that has worked for Shriver's cousin, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat. The spot depicts Shriver constituents - a gun-control activist, an educator, a single mother, an advocate for the disabled - talking about his impact.

In the ad, Shriver, the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, appears to be taking the advice of those who believe he is best served by focusing exclusively on his credentials.

The strategists figure that voters in the suburban Washington district, which is among the nation's wealthiest and most sophisticated, know about Shriver's background but may be less familiar with his work on behalf of all-day kindergarten, gun control or disabled rights.

Tierney Siegel, a local organizer of the Million Mom March, appears on camera first and praises Shriver for having "the courage to take on the NRA" on gun control. The ad makes no link between guns and losses suffered by the Kennedy family, though Shriver has done that previously in the campaign. President Kennedy and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, were killed by gun-wielding assassins.

Pollsters have said that Shriver could face a backlash if voters perceive that he took winning for granted because of his family connections. He has stressed from the outset of the campaign that he would work for votes.

Shriver's principal Democratic opponents, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. and former Clinton administration trade negotiator Ira Shapiro, haven't said exactly when their televised ads will make their debut.

The incumbent, Republican Constance A. Morella, is on the air with an ad about her personal history.

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