Duncan to air 1st campaign ad

Cutouts of gubernatorial candidates O'Malley, Ehrlich featured in commercial


Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan is launching the gubernatorial campaign's first television commercial today on four Baltimore stations, the same day he is officially announcing his city-based running mate.

Oddly enough, the first images in Duncan's 30-second TV spot are cardboard cutouts of Mayor Martin O'Malley and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Duncan then appears on screen, eclipses his Democratic and Republican rivals and introduces himself to viewers with a quick rundown of his personal history: one of 13 children who grew up in a small house in Rockville.

"Our mother always taught us that religious service was the highest calling, and public service the next," he says, as black-and-white photographs scroll in the background.

Duncan then recites more public and personal history -- Rockville councilman and mayor, father of five and "12 years leading Maryland's largest county."

"These guys get a lot of attention for themselves," Duncan says, gesturing to his cardboard co-stars. "It's time someone paid attention to you. We don't have to settle for the way things are because, Maryland, it's time to think bigger."

O'Malley's campaign said Duncan's commercial is a sign of desperation.

"It's very telling that Mr. Duncan is launching an ad campaign this early in the race," said O'Malley campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan. "He has a lot of ground to make up, given that every statewide poll to date has him trailing Martin O'Malley by overwhelming margins in the Baltimore media market."

Duncan's campaign refused to disclose how much it paid Washington firm Squier Knapp Dunn Communications to produce the commercial and how often it will run in the Baltimore media market.

"We don't talk about our media strategy," Duncan spokeswoman Jody Couser said. "Doug is continuing his efforts to get better known in the Baltimore media market and this ad is just one component of that."

The television stations that will carry the commercial are WMAR-TV Channel 2, WBAL-TV Channel 11, WJZ-TV Channel 13, and WBFF-TV Channel 45, Couser said.

Matthew Crenson, chairman of the Johns Hopkins University political science department, said he believes Duncan needs to increase his profile in Baltimore if he has any hope of cutting into support for O'Malley in the mayor's backyard.

"If he doesn't take fire pretty soon, he ought to just chuck it in," Crenson said.

He also wondered if Duncan could afford to continue buying television ads in Baltimore, considering that his campaign has far less money than O'Malley.

"The Baltimore media market is cheaper to cover than the Washington suburbs," Crenson said. "Still, he could run out of money. He still has to do something in the Washington area even though that's his home base."

Duncan's campaign reported having $1.4 million on hand in January. O'Malley reported $4.2 million.

One person familiar with Baltimore's media market estimated that if Duncan's ad runs for half a week in non-primetime hours, it could cost the campaign between $40,000 and $45,000. Primetime play for three to four days would cost closer to $90,000.

Duncan will also formally announce today that his lieutenant governor running mate is Stuart O. Simms, Baltimore's state's attorney from 1987 to 1995 who gave O'Malley his start in public life when he hired him as a prosecutor in 1988.


To view Duncan's TV commercial, go to baltimoresun.com/campaignad.

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