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October 24, 2014

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THE GOVERNOR’S RACE:

Rory Reid struggles to stand out in bid for governor

Obscured by his father’s higher-profile Senate contest, Rory Reid works hard to attract attention, engage voters

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Sam Morris

Languishing behind GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval in the polls and with the campaign season dominated by his father’s Senate race, Rory Reid has launched an aggressive ad campaign to change the dynamics of his race.

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

With this campaign season dominated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election bid, his son Rory Reid, the Democratic candidate for governor, has resorted to aggressive, sometimes quirky advertisements to change the dynamics of his race.

Since winning the primary, the younger Reid has languished, trailing by double digits his Republican opponent, former federal Judge Brian Sandoval.

The reasons are varied. But many political observers say that among them is the fact that all of the electoral oxygen is being sucked up by Harry Reid’s high-profile race against Republican U.S. Senate nominee Sharron Angle. Millions of dollars are being spent by both Senate campaigns and independent political groups attempting to influence a statewide race with national implications.

“Almost the entire focus of the electorate is on the Senate race,” said Jim Ferrence, a Democratic political consultant who is not affiliated with Rory Reid but manages the campaigns of Secretary of State Ross Miller and lieutenant governor candidate Jessica Sferrazza. “It’s difficult to break through” even with television ads or media coverage.

“That’s why you see creative spots,” he said.

A candidate’s first campaign ad is traditionally an introductory biography piece. Rory Reid’s featured cute children talking about his education plan.

The second was a Denis Leary-esque rant by a narrator attacking Sandoval and selling Reid’s education plan. The narrator says Nevada is facing a crisis, and then, “Not your midlife crisis.” Later, the narrator addresses possible voter fatigue toward campaign commercials directly. “You’re thinking ‘Awww man, just another political ad.’ ”

His latest ad, released this week, is more traditional, but it goes after Sandoval directly with a bold claim — that the Republican wants to lay off 1 in 5 teachers and cut millions from education.

“It’s important for us to be creative and be aggressive in reaching voters,” Reid spokesman Mike Trask said. “Regardless of everything else that’s happening, it’s extremely important to be unique and stand out.”

Sandoval’s campaign declined to comment on Reid’s television ads. But in a fundraising plea sent Wednesday, Sandoval suggests that the attacks are a sign of “desperation” on behalf of Reid.

Rory Reid’s backers note that his aggressive media campaign reflects the Democrat’s large fundraising advantage. He has money to spend on advertisements, while Sandoval, who trailed Reid by $2 million in the latest report, has run one TV ad since his primary victory — a Spanish-language spot that aired during the World Cup.

Dan Hart, another Democratic political consultant and an unpaid adviser to Rory Reid, said the Reid ads are “clever, interesting and will engage voters in a different way than traditional advertising.”

But he warned that the audience that matters is not political insiders, but voters.

“At the end of the day, what decides this race is whether the message is delivered effectively and resonates with voters,” Hart said. “I think that those of us who work in campaigns have to be very careful on maintaining focus on communicating with voters, make sure the voters get it, rather than being artistic.”

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