Brown allies plan campaign ads immediately after June primary


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Looking forward to June 8 and, hopefully, some blessed relief from those incessant campaign ads?


With election day less than two weeks away, Democrats and their allies are quietly preparing a TV blitz aimed at Meg Whitman, presuming she will be the GOP gubernatorial nominee against state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown . The targeted launch: June 9.


“She’s ready to unload on Jerry Brown right out of the gate,” said Roger Salazar, one of the strategists behind the labor-backed independent expenditure campaign. “We can’t cede June and July.”

The (inhale) California Working Families for Jerry Brown for Governor 2010 committee (exhale) claims to have $17 million in pledges toward a goal of $34 to $40 million, which is a good bit of cash even by California’s exorbitant election standards. The expectation among strategists—who, legally, must operate independent of Brown—is that the Democratic nominee will eventually pick up the slack and begin his own paid TV spots somewhere around Labor Day.

“We want to provide some assistance for Jerry and hit her so it bridges that gap,” Salazar said.

Pledges are about as good as the paper (or pixels) you’re reading this on, but the committee comes with some serious financial credibility in the form of Ron Burkle, the Los Angeles billionaire who is lending his name to the effort, as well as his formidable connections in the political donor world.

The committee has about a dozen TV spots it is testing and (spoiler alert!) the flavor can be divined from two that veteran consultant Larry Grisolano has been showing prospective contributors around the state. One uses clips of Whitman’s testy appearance at a September 2009 news conference, where she apologized—but failed to explain-her sketchy voting history. The other parses Whitman’s glossy campaign manifesto and suggests, lo, it’s the George W. Bush administration all over again!

Time was that campaigns let up after the primary, giving voters the summer off before candidates went back to business around Labor Day. But a fellow named Jerry Brown stole a march on his reelection opponent back in 1978, blanketing the state with a radio spot depicting the young governor hard at work while his Republican opponent, Evelle Younger, was vacationing in Hawaii. (Those of a certain age can still hear the ukuleles strumming in the background.) Younger never recovered and Brown romped to reelection.


Since then, others have successfully followed the hit-‘em-while-they’re-still-sweeping-up-confetti strategy, including then-U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston, who won a 1986 squeaker against Silicon Valley Rep. Ed Zschau and, most recently, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his 2006 reelection campaign against state Treasurer Phil Angelides.

One can only assume Whitman, who has already spent more on her campaign than the GDP of some Third World countries, will match the opposition ad-for-ad, starting June 9 or thereabout. (Qualifier: it’s back to Square One for everybody if Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner pulls an upset and wins the GOP nod.) For most of us, that means no respite until November.

For those who can afford it, Hawaii beckons.

--Mark Z. Barabak.