Gubernatorial candidate Benjamin T. Jealous (D) is hitting the airwaves for the first time since his unexpected victory in the primary. With seven weeks to go until Election Day, the campaign is debuting a 60-second spot that introduces the candidate and describes the main planks of his platform. The campaign said it is spending $109,000 to run the spots on all four network affiliate stations in Baltimore for two weeks, beginning Monday. The ad, called “Ready to Lead,” describes Jealous as “the son of two Maryland school teachers” and a one-time Marylander of the Year who turned around the national NAACP “when its finances were in tatters.” It touts the issues Jealous has highlighted on the campaign trail — “Medicare-for-all,” reduced prescription drug prices, “fully funded public schools” and increases in teacher pay.
Jealous’ image has been battered for weeks by ads, produced by the Republican Governors Association, that accuse the Democrat of advocating policies that would bankrupt the state. In addition, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan’s campaign has been running millions of dollars in commercials since June, highlighting his accomplishments. Because of lackluster fundraising, Jealous had not been able to respond. On Saturday, Jealous spokeswoman Jerusalem Demsas said, “We intend to be on the air for the rest of the campaign.”
But has he already been defined by the opposition?
The Jealous campaign believes that if it can boost turnout to 2010 levels and win 70 percent of Democrats, it can defeat the popular incumbent, who polls show to be well ahead of the challenger. “I don’t know how much of a difference [the ad] will make with non-partisans or independents,” said Mileah K. Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College. “But for Democrats looking for a reason to come home, this might be the nudge they need.” Jealous’ ads make no mention of his opponent, nor do they offer any insight into how he intends to pay for expanded health care and classroom funding.
Just as the RGA has invested heavily in Maryland, left-leaning groups may hit the airwaves to trumpet Jealous’ candidacy. “What we’re all waiting for is whether there’s an ad spree from progressive groups and the [Democratic Governors Association],” Kromer said. “Is Larry Hogan a big enough target, or do they want to take out a Trump guy?”
The Jealous commercial was produced by Devine Mulvey Longabaugh, a prominent Washington, D.C., consulting firm. Demsas said the campaign will hit D.C. airwaves “soon,” but she couldn’t say whether it will be the same ad that is set to run in the Baltimore region starting this week.