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AD WATCH / Cruz Bustamante

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante began running his first three television commercials Tuesday, two for his candidacy and one against Proposition 54, the ballot initiative that would prevent the state from collecting some types of racial data. All were filmed at a recent rally in Fresno, where he addressed hundreds of supporters waving "Bustamante for Governor" signs and red flags. The 30-second commercials are running statewide for two weeks in an ad buy that cost about $3.5 million, according to the Bustamante campaign.

September 18, 2003|Matea Gold | Times staff writer

Title: "Tough Love"

Producer: Joaquin Ross

The script: Against a montage of images from the rally, Bustamante is heard giving a speech: "I call my budget plan 'Tough Love for California,' " he says. "It raises tobacco and alcohol taxes. It lowers the car tax, lowers community college fees. There is a long list of candidates. Finding my name won't be easy. But I need you to do it because I need your vote for governor." The images include a girl sitting on her father's shoulder to get a better view of the candidate, a multicultural array of students standing behind the lieutenant governor and applauding, and the names of the 135 candidates on the recall ballot floating across the screen. The commercial ends with images of Bustamante at his desk. A small icon that says "No Recall" appears in the upper right-hand corner as the announcer says: "Cruz Bustamante. Democrat for governor."

Accuracy: Bustamante's description of his budget proposal is correct. He has suggested $8 billion worth of new taxes to help cover the state's budget shortfall and rolling back hikes in the car tax and community college tuition. However, the bulk of the new revenue would come from additional taxes on the wealthy and corporations, with taxes on alcohol and tobacco bringing in an estimated $1.5 billion. The lieutenant governor does not mention the difficulties that his proposal would probably have in getting the required two-thirds vote in the state Legislature.

Title: "Achievements"

Producer: Joaquin Ross

The script: An announcer says, "After voting 'no' on the recall, you have the right and responsibility to vote for a candidate for governor." Then Bustamante says: "I opened our colleges to every qualified student. I protected a woman's right to choose. And I'm the only lieutenant governor to ever shut down a polluting offshore oil rig. I need your vote for governor." The announcer closes: "Cruz Bustamante. Democrat for governor."

Accuracy: As a UC regent, Bustamante has been critical of the university system's admission policies and has pushed for more diversity among the student body and has advocated a new policy in which personal factors are used to judge prospective students, along with grades and test scores. But he is not in a position to implement any policy changes of his own. Bustamante has received a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood in both his campaigns for lieutenant governor. As chairman of the state Lands Commission in 1999, Bustamante ordered an oil rig leaking gas off the coast of Santa Barbara to remain shut down until the problem was resolved.

Title: "No on Prop. 54"

Producer: Joaquin Ross

The script: Bustamante: "Proposition 54 will stop health officials from collecting information they need to fight heart disease and diabetes. And no matter how you vote on the recall, please join me, California's nurses and doctors in voting 'no' on Proposition 54. It's more important than politics."

Accuracy: What effect Proposition 54 would have on health care is hotly debated. The ballot initiative would prohibit the state from gathering many forms of data on the race and ethnicity of Californians, and many medical officials say it would hamper efforts to study how diseases affect different populations. Supporters of the initiative say the wording of the measure would exempt health-care issues.

Analysis: The commercials seek to emphasize Bustamante's government experience and promote him as the Democratic standard-bearer. He touts his support for environmental protection, education and abortion rights, all touchstone issues for Democrats. In describing his budget plan, the lieutenant governor tries to show that he has presented specific ideas, something he says his opponents have not done. The depiction of the cheering crowd is an effort to portray his candidacy as one that is generating excitement. Bustamante has been criticized by some other Democrats for downplaying his stated opposition to the recall. The relatively brief "no on recall" references in the ads could fuel that criticism. Bustamante has argued that Gov. Gray Davis is putting sufficient resources into an anti-recall effort, while he must work to distinguish himself among the candidates on the second part of the ballot. Bustamante is paying for the commercial against Proposition 54 with large contributions from Indian tribes. Originally, he planned to use that money to pay for ads on his behalf -- a move that the state Fair Political Practices Commission has said might have been illegal. Using the money to oppose Proposition 54 is a less clear legal issue, the commission said, even though the ads prominently feature Bustamante's image and serve to promote his candidacy among minority voters who oppose the initiative.

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Compiled by Times staff writer Matea Gold

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