Sarbanes' broad themes

Campaign Ad watch

September 07, 2007|By Sumathi Reddy

Michael Sarbanes, a longtime civic activist and son of retired U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, began airing his third commercial of this year's City Council president race this week, much of it a recap of previous ads. The 30-second spot will be aired on all local network affiliates until Tuesday's Democratic primary, according to the campaign. This is the fifth television ad in this year's four-way Democratic primary for City Council president.

What the ad says: The ad begins with a male narrator quoting The Sun's endorsement of Sarbanes in Sunday's newspaper. "He is brimming with ideas. A leader who will shake things up," the narrator says, as the quotes are displayed on the screen.

Sarbanes is shown first with his wife and three children - an image that has appeared in all of his commercials - and then talking with a group of people.

"That's what the Baltimore Sun said in endorsing Michael Sarbanes," the narrator says as Sarbanes is shown holding his daughter, another familiar image.

"He knows what Baltimore needs: more police in our neighborhoods who know our neighborhoods to make them safer," the narrator says as Sarbanes is shown talking with a group of ministers and then police officers. Both of those images were shown in past commercials. Text on the screen says "Endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police."

The narrator says, "Putting accountability in our schools for every student's success" as a group of children is shown. "Accountability in Schools" is displayed on the screen.

"If you want hard-working, trusted leadership for Baltimore, there's only one choice," the narrator says, as the screen pans to Sarbanes walking with his father, the retired senator. The words "Michael Sarbanes" appear on the screen.

Sarbanes is shown with children who say, "Michael Sarbanes for City Council president" before bursting into giggles.

The narrator concludes, "New leadership for Baltimore."

The facts: There isn't much to fact-check here. Sarbanes was endorsed in an editorial that appeared in The Sun on Sunday, and the quotes are accurate.

As in Sarbanes' previous ads, he focuses on broad and general themes. He homes in on two of the themes that have become the most important issues in this year's campaign, public safety and education.

The council president, however, has little control or authority over the city's school system.

Analysis: Most of the images and messages displayed in this ad are ones seen in Sarbanes' two previous ads. In contrast with past ads, he does not speak directly to voters.

The only new elements are The Sun's endorsement and picturing Sarbanes with his father, who stepped down this year as the longest-serving senator in Maryland's history. The inclusion of his widely respected father in the ad can only help, though how many people will make the connection is open to question. There is nothing specific telling voters that the man walking with the candidate is the senator, and the senator is shown for only a few seconds, without speaking.

By contrast, Sarbanes' older brother, Rep. John Sarbanes, had their father in two television ads during last year's tight congressional campaign. The first included him in a nonspeaking role, and in the second he identified himself and spoke directly to voters about his son.

Experts have noted that Michael Sarbanes has not tried to score political points by using his name and father. His main opponent, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, has invoked her late father, former Del. Howard P. Rawlings, also a well-known and revered politician, in a radio spot and a television ad.

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