GOP candidates turn away from negative ads

Thursday, February 14, 2002

CHICAGO -- After releasing a series of attack ads and feel-good biographical spots, two Republican candidates for governor came out with commercials this week that discuss the issues and their records.

Attorney General Jim Ryan's spot outlines his education plan, while Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood uses testimonials to highlight her record in office.

The ads are a switch in a GOP campaign that has been largely negative. Wood has run commercials calling Ryan and the third Republican candidate, state Sen. Patrick O'Malley, "too extreme" for opposing abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

Ryan's response ad called Wood "desperate" and played up her role in the administration of unpopular Gov. George Ryan. O'Malley has attacked the outgoing governor for the drivers licenses-for-bribes scandal, and his most recent commercial alleges that Jim Ryan did nothing as attorney general to stop public corruption.

"I think it's a pretty boilerplate type of campaign you're seeing," said Gary Mack, a GOP political consultant.

Giving introductions

Mack said candidates usually first introduce themselves to voters in biographical ads, then turn to negative spots to try to define their opponents. Closer to the election, when voters start paying more attention, candidates say where they stand on important issues.

"You need to mix it up is the bottom line," Mack said.

Wood's ad begins and ends with the brother of Chicago Fire Lt. Scott Gillen, who was killed when a motorist ran into him at an accident scene. Wood pushed to pass "Scott's Law," which increases penalties for drivers who aren't careful around emergency vehicles.

The commercial also features a breast cancer survivor praising Wood for backing free mammograms in Illinois and Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton, who says Wood worked to create jobs in small towns.

Ryan's ad focuses on the key points of his education plan: boosting teacher standards and training, expanding charter schools and putting reading programs in every school.

Dan Proft, a spokesman for O'Malley, said the senator has clearly outlined his position on major issues -- from abortion to O'Hare expansion -- at campaign stops, news conferences and on his Web site.

Proft said candidates must use television ads not only to discuss where they stand on issues, but also to talk about how they differ from their opponents. O'Malley's current ad criticizing Jim Ryan runs through Thursday.

In other campaign news, a candidate for attorney general promised to put an end to the Legislature's practice of setting aside chunks of money to be used as lawmakers see fit.

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