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TV Ad Wars Begin In Seattle Mayor's Race

With less than a month to go before the August primary, candidates in the crowded Seattle mayor's race are now trying to reach voters with new ads on cable TV.

Ads from two of the nine mayoral candidates are now on the air, and a third will begin airing this week.

City Councilmember Bruce Harrell was the first to launch his commercial last week. It begins with a picture of Mayor Mike McGinn, his face looming over the Seattle skyline. Cracks begin to appear in the picture to the sound of breaking glass.

"Our current mayor has failed and fractured the city," Harrell's voice intones. "As mayor, I will bring people together."

Mayor McGinn has launched two TV ads that focus on his accomplishments over the last four years.

The first features Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro De La Raza. "What if Seattle had a mayor who made education a priority," she asks in the ad. "We do, and his name is Mike McGinn."

The second ad talks about what McGinn has done to improve library service in the city.

State Senator Ed Murray’s campaign plans to air his first commercial on Wednesday. It's a largely biographical ad that speaks of his family's commitment to public service and the expectation that he would serve as well.

"When I realized I was gay, I thought I would never have that chance. But Seattle is a special place," Murray says in the ad.

McGinn and Harrell’s campaigns say they each bought about $60,000 of air time. The ads will air on various cable channels, including CNN, MSNBC, and HGTV, and will run through the primary on August 6.

Murray’s campaign purchased an initial $25,000 of air time over the next week, but the campaign expects to buy more, according to campaign spokesman Sandeep Kaushik.

Architect and former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck will not be running television ads. Steinbrueck has  lagged behind Murray, McGinn and Harrell in fundraising. According to Steinbrueck's campaign manager Tom Van Bronkhorst, the campaign will be spending most of its resources on multiple direct mailings to voters. “TV is a very broad approach, a shotgun approach, you are betting that people are going to be home in the summer on a nice summer day watching TV," he said.

Businessman Charlie Staadecker is also opting out of TV, but he has produced a series of ads for the web. The first one is a spoof of a series of Dos Equis beer commercials featuring "The World's Most Interesting Man." His version casts him as "The Most Qualified Candidate in the Race," and adjusts the ending tag line to, "Stay informed and vote, my friends."

Despite the rush to air, no one really knows what effect cable ads will have on the race.

John Wyble, a political consultant who works for the McGinn campaign, describes the ads as a good investment. With cable ads, the campaign is able to target specific groups of voters — for example, women or older voters. But the media landscape is now so fractured that TV ads have to be just one piece of a much broader strategy, he said.

For the Harrell campaign, the ad buy is an experiment, according to campaign manager Monisha Harrell. "This isn't the Super Bowl, and we aren't advertising in the middle of The Big Bang Theory," she said. But she said ads are one more way to connect with a targeted group of voters, which might make a difference in a crowded race.

Year started with KUOW: 2005