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Candidates Will Turn Up the Volume in Senate Race

Barbara Boxer plans to start airing TV ads next week. Bill Jones, her Republican challenger, says he'll probably begin soon thereafter.

September 25, 2004|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

California's quiet U.S. Senate campaign is about to get a little louder. Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer plans to start airing television ads next week, and her Republican challenger says he'll probably start shortly thereafter.

"Sometime this week or the following week -- we're going to wait to see what she does," said Ed Rollins, co-campaign manager for Bill Jones' campaign.

Boxer spokesman Roy Behr said Friday that Boxer would start airing ads Tuesday in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento and Fresno. Behr declined to describe the ads or how much the campaign would be spending. He said a more detailed announcement would come Monday.

"It's a substantial buy," Behr said. "People will see the ads quite frequently."

The ads start with five weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election, timing that Behr said was typical for a U.S. Senate race in California. It will allow the candidates to concentrate their ads in the final stretch of the campaign.

Jones hopes the ads will inject fire into a race in which he trails badly in fundraising, voter support and public visibility. Independent polls this week by The Times and the Public Policy Institute of California found Boxer with a lead of 18 percentage points over Jones, and more than two out of every five respondents in The Times' poll said they didn't know enough about Jones to say whether they liked him.

"Bill's biggest problem is, half the state doesn't know who he is," Rollins said. "They're not going to know until we get on TV.... At the end of the day, that's how you get name ID."

As in the polls, Boxer has a heavy advantage here, too, with millions in cash available to buy expensive air time. Boxer had $7 million in the bank at the end of June and has been raising money since. Jones' campaign has been cash-poor, with less than $1 million in the bank at the end of June, though he pledged to spend up to $2 million of his own money. Jones also has hit the fundraising circuit hard, including events Thursday and Friday in Los Angeles and the Central Valley with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The current financial reporting period ends Sept. 30, but figures won't be publicly available until about Oct. 15.

"The obvious question, based on the last financial report, is how do they intend to fund [the ads]?" Behr said. "He's either going to have to start writing big checks, or they're going to do a token buy and fool reporters into thinking it's a real campaign."

Jones strategist Sean Walsh said two ads are done, but he declined to say how much the campaign would spend, or where. ""We're not going to afford our opponents any of that intelligence," he said. ""We're going to wait and see what she puts up."

But Walsh signaled that the ad buy might not be very substantial. He said the campaign would be concentrating in the near future on voters who have requested absentee ballots -- a cheaper and more targeted outreach.

"We have a pretty extensive direct mail component to those folks," Walsh said. "It's all part and parcel of our voter-contact strategy."

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