State Controller Kathleen Connell on Monday night launched what aides said will be an expensive series of TV campaign commercials portraying her as a fiscal watchdog who will "know how to manage the city."
Her first 30-second advertisement, appearing during late local news broadcasts Monday night, will be shown throughout the week as part of a $450,000 purchase of TV time. The ad features Connell as she walks with doctors, talks with schoolchildren, and poses with her sons, David, 10, and Garrett, 9.
Connell is the fifth of six major candidates for mayor to take to the airwaves. (U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra is scheduled to begin running a Spanish-language ad today.) Her appearance on the air represents a breath of hope for her campaign. Like most of her fellow mayoral aspirants, Connell is trying to break from a pack of five candidates all bunched closely together in a recent Times Poll--all of them trailing front-runner James K. Hahn, Los Angeles city attorney.
Her aides said the expense of her TV ad campaign demonstrates her financial wherewithal and the determination of this state-wide official to win this local race.
"This is an intro spot, getting people to learn a little bit more about the candidate," said Connell campaign consultant John Shallman. "We expect to expand the buy incrementally as we get close to election day."
The primary election is April 10, with a runoff, if needed, in June.
Connell, who has raised approximately $1.1 million, collected more in contributions than any of the other five major candidates in the first two months of this year. Late Saturday, she disclosed in a filing with the city ethics commission that she is loaning $100,000 of her own money to her campaign.
Under the city's complex campaign finance laws, Connell's loan to her campaign will allow the other five candidates to raise an additional $100,000 in excess contributions. That is on top of the possible additional donations of $687,000 permitted because of businessman Steve Soboroff's personal spending on his campaign.
In addition to briefly detailing her professional credentials, the ad concludes with a brief homage to the Los Angeles bona fides of Connell, a Colorado native who has been state controller in Sacramento since 1994. Although Connell is originally from Colorado and went to college in Nebraska, the spot emphasizes her connection to UCLA, where she earned a doctorate, directed the Center for Finance and Real Estate and was on the business school faculty.
The ad also briefly refers to her work as a housing director for the late Mayor Tom Bradley, and her career as a businesswoman, running a Los Angeles investment bank.
Her six years as controller, sometimes described as the state's chief financial officer, is offered as evidence of her managerial skill. The ad mentions her work as chief check-writer of the state's $100 billion budget, and her aggressive audits of the lottery and Medi-Cal, a program which helps pay medical bills for poor people in California.
Her name, first and last, appears a half-dozen times in the spot, which emphasizes her talents as a manager.
"I'll know how to manage the city," she says.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Truth in Mayor's Race Advertising
Candidate: Kathleen Connell
Title: "Can Do"
Connell: Hi, Kathleen Connell.
Male announcer: She's the only choice for mayor who's managed a $100-billion budget. Connell can do it. Kathleen Connell. As state controller, she cracked down on Medi-Cal fraud. Streamlined the lottery to get more money to our schools. Her audits saved taxpayers over $1 billion. Connell can do it. Kathleen Connell.
Connell: I'll know how to manage this city.
Announcer: Teacher at UCLA . . . Housing director for Tom Bradley . . . Businesswoman . . . Mom . . . Mayor. She'll make L.A. a better place to live.
The ad is an attempt to introduce the state controller--her full name is given three times and appears on screen three more times--to Los Angeles voters, who may be unaware of her work in Sacramento and her ties to the city. On the campaign trail Connell, a Colorado native who was 24 when she moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, has been emphasizing her work as a housing director for the late Mayor Tom Bradley, her ties to UCLA and her encyclopedic knowledge of city streets.
The ad highlights her high-profile audits. But it also could raise questions about her effectiveness. "She has one mode--threat. And no delivery system," then-state Sen. Bill Lockyer, now the attorney general, said in 1997. Her claim of $1 billion in savings is one she has used since her 1998 reelection campaign, but it is based in part on cost estimates that are difficult to verify.