U.S. Senate candidate Rales launches TV ads

July 06, 2006|By JENNIFER SKALKA | JENNIFER SKALKA,SUN REPORTER

U.S. Senate candidate Josh Rales, an affluent Montgomery County businessman who has not run for office before, launched his first television ads of the campaign yesterday.

Rales, a Democrat, is introducing himself to voters with two 30-second spots that will run in the Baltimore, Washington and Salisbury media markets. In one ad, Rales says that the money spent on the war in Iraq could have been used to fix the nation's schools and health care system.

"I'll vote to bring our troops home within a year, and I'll work for an alternative energy policy so we never have to fight this kind of war again," Rales says.

In the other ad, the candidate promises to raise gas-mileage standards and expand the use of hybrid vehicles.

Though officials from his campaign have declined to specify how much of Rales' personal fortune will be invested in the race and what is expected to be a series of extensive ad buys leading up to the September primary, Federal Election Commission records show that on June 30, Rales placed more than $895,000 of his own money into his campaign account. In March, he gave $400,000.

"My challenge is to build the trust to let people know that I'm the real deal," Rales said in an interview.

Rales is one of a half-dozen Democrats vying to run against the likely Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele. In a recent Washington Post poll, however, Rales' support is in the low single digits.

A former Republican, he faces an uphill climb in a race where the two leading Democratic contenders - former congressman and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin - are more experienced politicians and better known to voters.

Rales' personal donations trigger a so-called "millionaires amendment." The more a candidate gives to his or her campaign, the higher the donation limits for other candidates in the race.

A father of two, Rales is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Georgetown University Law Center. He runs a real estate investment company, RFI Associates, in the Washington area. Two of his brothers - founders of the publicly traded Danaher Corp. - are on the Forbes magazine list of billionaires.

Rales said he believes his new television ads will give him broad exposure and show voters that while he might be a political novice, he has ideas to contribute to the public debate. He would not say how much additional money he will sink into the campaign, but has said previously it could be more than $6 million.

"There will be no issue of name recognition by Election Day," Rales said.

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

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