Campaign ads overwhelm Maryland district

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2010; 8:59 PM

BEL AIR, Md. - Across the country, political candidates and campaign workers are more than eager for the endless loop of rallies, fairs and fundraisers finally to come to an end on Nov. 2.

Marian Norris has a simpler dream - she just wants all the ads to stop.

"Oh, my God, you can't watch the news," Norris said Monday night as she emerged from casting her ballot at the Harford County Public Library. "I've stopped watching the local news because of them."

Unfortunately for Norris, she is a resident of Forest Hill in Maryland's 1st Congressional District, one of the most ad-saturated patches of ground in the country. The tight contest between freshman Rep. Frank M. Kratovil Jr. (D) and state Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R) has turned into a magnet for spending from a host of groups, which was bad news for Norris - who backed Kratovil - and some of her fellow early voters.

"I don't even look at 'em," Paul Church, a Bel Air resident who voted for Harris, said of the campaign ads. "I just mute 'em. Don't pay 'em no mind."

From Sept. 1 through Oct. 20, more than $3.3 million was spent on television advertising in the Kratovil-Harris race, according to an analysis by _blankthe Wesleyan Media Project of data from _blankKantar Media/CMAG. That was the sixth-highest total in the country.

In neighboring Virginia, Rep. Tom Perriello's (D) contest in the 5th District was third on the list, while the reelection races of Reps. Glenn Nye (D) and Rick Boucher (D) were 12th and 13th, respectively.

In total, Wesleyan calculated, ads for or against Kratovil or Harris aired in the Maryland district a total of 6,405 times over the seven-week period. And then there are the ubiquitous campaign spots run in the state's competitive governor's race, and the ads on whether to allow construction of a new slots casino at Arundel Mills Mall.

In the 1st District race, ads supporting the incumbent Democrat outnumbered those for his GOP challenger by a 2-to-1 ratio, Wesleyan said.

Though they each have pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into television time, both Kratovil and Harris professed in interviews to being disappointed with the current state of affairs and complained of having been wronged by inaccurate ads.

"I think people don't know what to believe," said Kratovil, the former Queen Anne's County state's attorney. "The difference between what I'm doing now and what I was doing before is, in a courtroom, if someone got on the stand and made a comment, you could keep him there for 45 minutes until you got to the truth. They couldn't escape the facts. In politics, they can."

Harris, a physician and state senator who lives in Baltimore County, lamented that "cookie-cutter ads" have been run against him - particularly on his support for a 23 percent sales tax that would replace the existing tax code - and said he wished he and Kratovil could have engaged in extended debates on the issues.

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