The camera moves in on Wyatt B. Durrette Jr., the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia. He's perched on the edge of a teacher's desk, surrounded by wide-eyed youngsters.
It seems the perfect setting for Durrette's 30-second television commercial about his plans for improving public education in Virginia, one of the main themes of his campaign.
The commercial, however, wasn't photographed in one of Virginia's public schools, Durrette aides said yesterday. It was filmed at St. Edward's, a Catholic school in the Richmond suburbs.
"We shot these things in a private school so that we would not have to use any taxpayer money to open up a public school," said Steve Levet, a spokesman for the Durrette campaign. "It was a question of logistics."
"It could be seen as insensitive to the purpose of the message," said Chris Bridge, a spokeswoman for the Democratic candidate for governor, Gerald L. Baliles. "It would seem curious he would do that knowing the message could conflict with the reality." Bridge said Baliles has television spots promoting his education plans and they were shot in front of a public elementary school in suburban Richmond. Baliles' two children attend an Episcopal school in Richmond.
Durrette selected St. Edward's for the commercials because three of his children attend the school, Levet said. He said the youngsters appearing in the commercials include friends of the Durrette children and the children of campaign workers.
"The theme is education and promotes Wyatt's proposals regardless of where they were shot," said Levet. "It was in a classroom more for the effect of being in a classroom; it's not an issue of whether they were shot in public versus private schools."