Marylanders have been barraged for months by TV ads attacking Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous, but Jealous didn’t respond with any TV ads of his own after the June primary ended.
With about seven weeks to go before Election Day, Jealous begins airing his first ad of the general election on Monday. The ad is playing on all four broadcast stations in the Baltimore market.
It opens with an old photo of Jealous as a child with his parents.
“He’s the son of two Maryland schoolteachers,” the voiceover says.
The minute-long ad highlights Jealous’s experience leading the NAACP — “when its finances were in tatters, restoring its prominence, nearly doubling its revenue” — and his time as a venture capitalist with the California-based firm Kapor Capital.
“Ben’s helped grow over 20 companies, creating over 1,000 jobs,” the voiceover says.
That focus is a response to feedback Jealous said he received from voters around the state.
“As we were traveling around the state, people said, ‘Look, we know you’re an organizer, we know you’re a civil rights leader. We want to hear about your work growing companies.’ And so we want to make sure that our ads included that, too,” Jealous said.
Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, noted that the ad doesn’t directly mention or address Gov. Larry Hogan, who Jealous is trying to unseat in November.
“But it does start to sort of speak to the idea that Ben Jealous is a job creator,” she said. “It's in direct juxtaposition to the image that the Republican Governors Association painted of Ben Jealous this summer.”
The Republican Governors Association, an independent group active in governors’ races across the country, spent at least $1 million this summer on ads attacking Jealous’s policies as too expensive.
Hogan’s campaign has also been airing its own ads since the end of May — weeks before Jealous became his party’s nominee.
But Kromer said it’s not too late for Jealous to make an impact on TV.
“When we really think about campaign season and we think about, you know, the large kickoff, it's usually post-Labor Day,” she said. “While we are a few weeks after Labor Day, this is the part of the campaign season where people really start to pay attention.”
Waiting to get on TV was likely driven by both strategy and financial necessity, she said.
“The Jealous campaign simply does not have the deep campaign coffers that the Hogan campaign does. And so when they spend money, they need to spend money wisely,” she said. “Right now they're putting out an introductory ad in hopes that they're reaching the electorate at a time in which the electorate is more engaged."
Jealous said ads aired over the summer — like those Hogan aired — would have had less of an impact.
“We knew that ads in August would not decide votes in November,” he said. “You build a big ground game, you put out positive ads in the last six weeks, seven weeks, and we should win in the end.”
The campaign spent a little more than $100,000 on the first week of ads and plans to follow up with a similar amount next week, said spokeswoman Jerusalem Demsas.
The campaign also plans to air ads in the Washington market “soon,” she said, and to keep ads on TV until the end.
Demsas said the campaign won’t air any negative ads.