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October 15, 2008

Trusting the testimonials in Harris/Kratovil race

At least 650,000 people live in the 1st Congressional District, which includes the Eastern Shore and portions of Harford, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. Of those registered to vote in a political party, just under half are Republicans, which is a lot for Maryland. Of those, at least three quarters who turn out to vote will likely cast their ballot for state Sen. Andy Harris, who beat incumbent Republican Wayne Gilchrest in a primary.

So with tens of thousands of Harris supporters out there, why does it appear hard for him to find fans to appear in his television commercials?

The Harris campaign has been fond of the "person on the street" testimonial-type advertisement.

They used one during the primary, to attack Gilchrest as too liberal and out of touch with the district.

"He's changed," says a beefy guy wearing a hoodie, standing in front of a Hyster forklift in a warehouse.

"He votes for big spending," complains the young woman with a blond bob haircut and a red sweater, standing near a deli counter.

They're using another one now, to attack Democratic nominee Frank Kratovil.

"Just too liberal," says a beefy guy wearing a hoodie, standing in front of a Hyster forklift in a warehouse.

"He's a big spender," says the young woman with a blond bob haircut and a red sweater, standing near a deli counter.

Huh? Tivo, do we have a problem?

The beefy guy and the blond woman are the only two of several speakers -- all anonymous -- who appear in both ads. Other cast members mention either Kratovil or Gilchrest by name, and are therefore unique to that commercial.

Neither spot is overly convincing in its realism. You'd have to be pretty thick to believe these were voters chosen at random on the streets of Salisbury or Easton, giving unscripted views of politicians.

But still, isn't there something dishonest about giving viewers the impression that a "real person" is criticizing Kratovil, when in fact they may have been talking about Gilchrest? Or, for that matter, they may talking about some generic opponent that Harris was always going to run to the right of, and brand as "too liberal."

The Harris campaign denies that it is being deceptive. "These individuals believe Frank Kratovil is a liberal," says Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins, although he would not disclose the names of the two speakers to Maryland Politics, or provide contact information.

"They've already said what they want to say publically," he said.

The Kratovil campaign said the testimonial ads -- and another Harris released today which they say misuses a Kratovil quote that had been corrected by the newspaper that originally published it -- together "demonstrate a profound lack on integrity." (More on that new ad to come, so check back later.)

You, blog readers, can decide for yourself. Watch the two ads, and let us know what you think.

Here's the commercial slamming Gilchrest:

Here's the spot against Kratovil:

Posted by David Nitkin at 1:29 PM | | Comments (1)


Some of the faces are the same. The messages are the same. But isn't that what you would expect?

Harris had a message about Gilchrest - liberal, raise taxes, not funding the things that matter.

Gilchrest endorses Kratovil. Endorsements come from affinity, as a rule.

Harris is running against Kratovil, who he sees as like Gilchrest, and the message is the same. The same folks are used to raise the objections, along with a few additional folks.

My question is this: If Gilchrest had won the nomination, would he have endorsed Kratovil?

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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