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Published: Tuesday, 8/16/2005

Ford looking to redefine image in TV ads

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER
Ford Ford
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

Mayor Jack Ford will broadcast television advertisements from now until the Sept. 13 primary election, hoping to convince voters he has done more than they think to captain Toledo through choppy economic times.

It is a strategy none of Mr. Ford's opponents can yet afford, and one the mayor can likely not afford to see fail.

Mr. Ford is locked in what appears to be a competitive four-way race that includes former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, former county Commissioner Keith Wilkowski, and Toledo Councilman Rob Ludeman.

Mr. Ford, Mr. Finkbeiner, and Mr. Wilkowski are Democrats; Mr. Ludeman is a Republican.

His opponents have criticized Mr. Ford for not doing enough to bring jobs and development to Toledo in his 3 1/2 years in office.

The mayor's series of television ads, his campaign media consultant said yesterday, seek to redefine Mr. Ford as a man of quiet accomplishment that has sometimes gone unnoticed.

"He has not done a good job of self-promotion, and we have to make up for that," said the consultant, Jim Ruvolo.

The first ad already has run on cable. Mr. Ford's campaign will spend $30,000 this week to air it on at least two broadcast stations, largely during or near local newscasts.

The spot begins with an announcer asking "So you think you know Jack?" It then touts Mr. Ford's work on health care and small business issues. The announcer closes by asking "Why didn't you know this? Jack Ford would rather do the work than talk about it."

The mayor's opponents rejected that characterization.

"People have a good idea of what Mr. Ford has accomplished and what he has not accomplished," Mr. Wilkowski said. "More important than those TV ads will be the record."

None of the other candidates will immediately counter Mr. Ford on the airwaves, however.

Mr. Wilkowski said he will buy television time "in a couple of days," though he would not say if he would target cable or broadcast stations. Mr. Finkbeiner's spokesman said the former mayor would wait until September to run ads. Mr. Ludeman said he will decide soon whether to advertise on the air.

Both Mr. Finkbeiner's spokesman and Mr. Ludeman questioned the effectiveness of buying television time a month before the primary.

"People get tired of television political ads very quickly," Mr. Ludeman said. "It's 30 days [away], so I guess that's what the remote's for."

Mr. Ruvolo called that argument "excuse time" and suggested money, not voter attention, was making the difference in strategy.

The most recent campaign finance reports showed Mr. Ford with nearly 10 times as much cash on hand as the other three candidates combined.

"If they had the money," Mr. Ruvolo said, "they'd be up."

Contact Jim Tankersley at:

jtankersley@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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