Philadelphia mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham is releasing her first TV ad just as recent polls show her slipping to third place.
Two polls conducted by groups supporting Jim Kenney show him leading state Sen. Tony Williams by as much as 9 points and Abraham by 15 points.
Abraham takes them both on in her new TV ad to begin airing Tuesday. It focuses strictly on school funding and features the candidate walking through a room filled with pictures of students.
“There’s over 200,000 students in Philadelphia. Jim Kenney and Tony Williams are fighting over public schools vs. charters,” Abraham says. “I think they’re both wrong. It’s making sure they all get a good education.”
Both Kenney and Williams have said they support good schools of all kinds, and it’s the first hint of negativity in what has been a positive campaign ad season.
Abraham, who says it is “wrong Philadelphia gets less school funding than other parts of Pennsylvania,” repeats her vow to sue the state in federal court if the legislature fails to send more money to the city’s schools.
Spokesman Sam Coleman said her campaign has reserved $700,000 worth of cable and broadcast TV time over the next three weeks, far less than the more than $3 million spent by super PACs backing Kenney and Williams who have also spent their own campaign cash.
Kenney aired his first TV ad Monday, and spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the campaign plans to spend at least $300,000 a week on cable and broadcast air time.
The 30-second spot opens with photos of Kenney’s father, a firefighter in South Philadelphia.
“He never took the easy way out of protecting our city, and neither do I,” he says.
The ad continues by highlighting Kenney’s record on City Council and his proposals to end the stop-and-frisk policy and to expand pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.
“I fought for LGBT rights and tough ethics laws when it wasn’t popular or politically easy,” he says. “When opponents fought me on decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, I fought to give people a second chance.”
Kenney sponsored a bill giving tax incentives to private employers who extend insurance to the same-sex partners of their employees, supported the creation of the city’s Board of Ethics, and introduced the bill that relaxed the city’s marijuana laws.
As for Williams, who was the first candidate to put out a campaign-funded TV commercial last month, a source familiar with his ad placement says his campaign has stopped buying air time as of April 13.
Ads promoting Williams put out by American Cities, the independent political committee funded by three wealthy pro-school choice donors, continue to air.
Williams’ campaign would not confirm whether it has stopped reserving TV time.
“We’ve been moving our message early and on multiple avenues,” said spokesman Al Butler in an email. “And we have the resources to make sure our message comes through loud and clear now that we’ve reached the closing weeks of this campaign.”
Doug Oliver launched a modest ad campaign last week, including billboards, radio and TV spots.
Candidates Milton Street and Nelson Diaz, who also trail in the polls, have yet to produce TV ads.
NewsWorks/WHYY’s Dave Davies contributed reporting.