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Boston Mayoral Race Hits The Airwaves

BOSTON — Until now, the city’s first competitive mayoral race in a generation has played before small audiences: living room gatherings, law firm fundraisers and wonky forums.

But this week the campaign gets broader play, with two of the 12 candidates launching television advertising campaigns.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley will begin airing four spots on cable and broadcast television Tuesday, touching on gun violence, education and economic development.

And City Councilor Felix Arroyo, aiming to become the city’s first Latino mayor, will start airing a 30-second ad on Spanish-language television Thursday called “With your help we will make history.”

Doug Rubin, an adviser to Arroyo, declined to discuss how much the campaign is spending on the ad buy. But he said the spot will run for at least four weeks.

Conley spokesman Michael Sherry did not provide ad buy details either. But he called the campaign’s purchase “significant.”

The candidate, he added, will be on the air straight through the preliminary mayoral election Sept. 24, when voters narrow the field to two.

“The Conley campaign,” Sherry said, “is going full throttle.”

Conley has a significant financial edge over his opponents. As of June 30, he had almost $1.3 million in his campaign account. City Councilor John Connolly, second in the money chase, had about half that total.

The advertising is the most tangible, public expression of Conley’s fundraising advantage yet. And Peter Ubertaccio, a political science professor at Stonehill College, said it should make an impression on the activist and donor class paying more attention to the first phase of the race than the broader electorate.

“Early ad buys like this are a cue to folks — money people, organization people — that he’s serious,” Ubertaccio said. “Any doubt about his ability to put this together probably evaporates when you go up early like this.”

But if Conley’s ad buy — rolled out for reporters Monday — was meant as an early show of strength, late-breaking news that Arroyo had purchased airtime on Univision and Telemundo undercut the message a bit.

Rubin, the Arroyo adviser, cast the ad as an effort to stir the candidate’s base.

“There’s a lot of excitement across the city about Felix’s campaign, but in particular in the Latino community,” he said. “We want to build upon that.”

The ad has Arroyo talking into camera and appearing, among others, with his father — former City Councilor Felix Arroyo Sr.

“I’m running because I believe that everyone deserves to have a say about the future of our city,” Arroyo says in the spot, according to a translation provided by the campaign. “With your help we will make history.”

With your help we will make history

The ad qualifies as something of a biographical spot — standard for the launch of an advertising campaign.

But Conley’s first foray into television — two 15-second spots and a pair of 30-second ads produced by Joe Slade White, a longtime adviser to Vice President Joe Biden — is issue-focused.

Sherry said the advertisements are designed to demonstrate that Conley, who served as a city councilor for eight years before he was appointed district attorney in 2002, is about more than law and order.

“Every child deserves the best school possible,” says Conley, in a 15-second ad screened for WBUR called “Graduate.”  ”I have two kids of my own. This is personal.”

The spot, which shows Conley talking with parents and reading to students, makes a broad-brush call for “better teacher training” and says the city needs to “empower parents.”

As Conley urges “more school choices,” text on the screen offers the ad’s most specific policy prescription: “lift the cap on charter schools.”

Graduate

A well-heeled education reform movement focused its early attention on three other candidates: Connolly, who has made education his signature issue, state Rep. Martin J. Walsh, who helped start the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, and Shawmut Design and Construction executive Bill Walczak, who founded the Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester.

But Conley is in the running with reformers, now, after his full-throated embrace of charter schools on the campaign trail.

Other candidates in the race downplayed the importance of the early television advertisements from Conley and Arroyo.

“When the time is right, we will talk to voters by television, but right now we have hundreds of volunteers talking to thousands of voters face-to-face each day,” said Adam Webster, a spokesman for the Connolly campaign.

“We think this thing’s won on the ground,” added Matt Patton, campaign manager for candidate John Barros, executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.

Josh Gee, a spokesman for city councilor and mayoral candidate Mike Ross, said the campaign will “invest aggressively in modern tactics like targeted online ads and social media to spread Mike’s vision of harnessing innovation to create jobs and improve our schools.”

The state’s political bandwidth was consumed, this spring, by the special election to succeed U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who resigned his post to become U.S. Secretary of State.

But the launch of the television advertisements is a sign that the mayoral race is entering a new, higher profile phase.

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  • J__o__h__n

    I am still undecided. None of the city councilors impress me. I had been leaning towards Dan Conley, but he is out of consideration now for trampling on the rights of the nephew of the Boston Strangler. Innocent citizens who are not themselves the subject of a criminal investigation should not be subject to police surveillance to obtain their DNA.

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