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Bear-Baiting And Big Races Drown Portland, Maine, In Campaign Ads

A ballot measure in Maine over bear-baiting has drawn ads from both sides of the debate, including this one from the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, which opposes the measure. (YouTube)

In terms of campaign ads, Portland, Maine, is punching well over its weight.

Nielsen ranks the Portland media market 91st in the country. But it comes in at No. 8 in terms of campaign-ad volume, according to Kantar Media research.

With voting day next week, more than $1 billion has been spent on some 2 million ads around the country. Portland proves it's not just TV viewers in the big states that are being deluged.

Political scientist Michael Franz says there are a number of reasons why Portland is so popular.

"I think what we're seeing is a number of races that are of interest to people," says Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. "Namely, the governor's race at the top, obviously, is drawing a tremendous amount of advertising."

There's also a controversial ballot measure on bear-baiting: Question 1 on the Maine ballot Election Day would ban the use of things like jelly donuts to lure bears out of the woods so hunters can shoot them. It's getting a lot of attention in the state.

Franz says some 1,300 ads in the past two weeks alone have aired for and against the issue. The folks who would ban such bear-baiting are led by the Humane Society and have been airing ads like these:

Other groups, including some of Maine's game wardens, are behind ads that would keep the practice of baiting, along with hunting with dogs, legal. They argue that these methods are necessary to keep the state's black-bear population under control.

Also getting a lot of attention is the state's U.S. Senate race. Republican Susan Collins is seen as a shoe-in for re-election. But that hasn't stopped her Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows, from advertising in the Portland TV market, which covers the more Democratic-leaning southern part of the state. Her campaign has been running an ad featuring the endorsement of perhaps Maine's most famous resident, novelist Stephen King.

Residents of southern Maine have also been treated to ads for a congressional race. And because of the Portland market's low cost, there are even ads for the hotly contested U.S. Senate race in neighboring New Hampshire.

Voters may throw their hands up in disgust, but political scientist Franz says the ads will keep coming, in part because there are so many more media options available.

"The more options we have, the more divided our attention spans are," he says, "so the more bludgeoning it takes for us to get the point."

Fear not, though: The campaign ads in Portland and almost everywhere else will fade to black in a week.

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We can confirm what many of you suspect, this campaign season is an advertising bonanza. Over $1 billion have been spent on some 2 million ads. There are congressional and governors' races and important questions involving things like junk food. NPR's Brian Naylor takes us to one saturated city, Portland, Maine.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: According to Nielsen, the Portland media market is ranked 91st in the country with a population of just over half a million. But in terms of campaign ads, Portland is punching well above its weight. In fact Portland came in at number eight in terms of campaign ad volume. That's according to Kantar Media CMAG, which tracks ad buys. Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and the Wesleyan Media Project says there are a number of reasons why Portland is such a popular market for campaign ads.

MICHAEL FRANZ: I think what we're seeing is a number of races that are of interest to people. Namely the governors' races at the top obviously is drawing a tremendous amount of advertising. We have a kind of a controversial ballot measure on bearbaiting is that's drawing a fair amount of advertising.

NAYLOR: That's right, he said bearbaiting. Question one on the Maine ballot Election Day would ban the use of things like jelly doughnuts to lure bears out of the woods so hunters can shoot them. And it's getting a lot of attention in the state. Franz says some 1,300 ads in the last two weeks alone have aired for and against the issue. The folks who would ban such bearbaiting are led by The Humane Society and have been airing ads like these.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The threat to public safety comes from dumping 7 million pounds of junk food that's habituating bears to human food. Question one continues traditional bear hunting and only stops junk food baiting, hounding and cruel trapping. No one wants problem bears in our neighborhoods, so let's stop feeding them. It's common sense. Vote yes on question one.

NAYLOR: Other groups, including some of Maine's game wardens, are behind ads that would keep the practice of baiting along with hunting with dogs legal. They argued they're necessary to keep the state's black bear population under control.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Question one would ban the most effective method we use to control bears and prevent attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: That's why Maine's bear biologists and game wardens strongly oppose question one.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: It's a serious threat to public safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Vote no on one. It's bad for Maine.

NAYLOR: Also getting a lot of attention is the state's U.S. Senate race. Republican Susan Collins is seen as a shoo-in for reelection. But that hasn't stopped her Democratic opponent Shenna Bellows from advertising in the Portland TV market, which covers the more Democratic-leaning southern part of the state. Her campaign has been running this ad featuring the endorsement of perhaps Maine's most famous resident - novelist Stephen King.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

STEPHEN KING: Shenna Bellows would be a breath of fresh air. She's focused on the people from the state of Maine. We can make a change. We should make a change, and Shenna Bellows is the change.

SHENNA BELLOWS: I'm Shenna Bellows, and I approve this message.

NAYLOR: Residents of southern Maine have also been treated to ads for a congressional race. And because of the Portland market's low cost, there are even ads for the hotly contested U.S. Senate race in neighboring New Hampshire. Voters may throw up their hands in disgust, but political scientist Franz says the ads will keep coming in part because there are so many more media options now available.

FRANZ: So the more options we have, the more divided our attention spans are. And so the more bludgeoning it takes for us to kind of get the point.

NAYLOR: Fear not, though, the campaign ads in Portland and almost everywhere else will fade to black in a week. Brian Naylor, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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