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TV war starts in Fla. gov’s race with two attack ads

TALLAHASSEE – The television ad war in the governor’s race kicked off with two attack ads, one criticizing Democrat Alex Sink’s banking career and the other saying Republican Bill McCollum voted four times to raise his own salary while the national debt soared.

The Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) released its ad Tuesday and the Florida Democratic Party plans to start airing its spot Wednesday. Both will appear in markets around the state and both groups have spent at least $100,000, though the RGA said their buy was several hundred thousand dollars.

The 15-second RGA ad opens with a still photo of a smiling Sink, who serves as the state’s chief financial officer.

Sink’s photo moves to the side of the screen as four video boxes open showing a foreclosure sign, two of a couple in their home and a man in a business suit walking with what looks like his desk possessions in a box. As those images disappear, another image opens next to Sink. It shows a man’s hands placing two stacks of bundled money on a black table followed by female hands slowly sliding them away.

As the images play, a male voiceover says: “As bank president, Alex Sink eliminated thousands of Florida jobs – while taking over $8 million in salary and bonuses. Alex Sink. Not one of us. One of them.”

Then the still image of Sink winks, with a sparkle coming out of her eye.

Sink is the former president of Bank of America’s Florida operations. The ad doesn’t explain that the jobs were lost because of a merger with Jacksonville-based Barnett Bank. Sink oversaw the consolidation of the staff and operations, a process that typically means duplicate jobs being eliminated and the closure of branches where the previously competing banks had locations near each other.

The RGA said it spent several hundred thousand dollars on the ads and is showing it on broadcast and cable stations.

The Sink campaign responded by saying she spent decades supporting businesses and families during her banking career before retiring in 2000.

Her campaign manager, Paul Dunn, pointed a finger back at McCollum, the state’s attorney general and leading Republican in the race to replace Gov. Charlie Crist. He said McCollum, who served in Congress for 20 years, contributed to the deregulation of the banking industry that helped lead to today’s economic problems, including legislation he co-sponsored that helped make bank mergers easier.

“With his decades in Congress and as a special interest lobbyist, career politician Bill McCollum is desperate to avoid being held accountable for his leading role in helping start today’s economic crisis that has left over a million Floridians out of work, bankrupt, or forced out of their homes,” Dunn said.

After Dunn responded to the RGA ad, the Florida Democratic Party released one of its own.

The 30-second spot opens with McCollum standing at a lectern saying, “I’m proud of my record of having been a congressman.”

A male voiceover then says, “Really? Well, Bill McCollum, you cost the rest of us billions. He voted four times to raise his own pay – $51,000. Our tax money pays his congressional pension – over $75,000 a year. The national debt skyrocketed $4.7 trillion. McCollum voted for debt limit increases five times.

“Bill McCollum, just another Washington politician Florida can’t afford,” it says.

The video shows an image of McCollum looking slightly off to the side superimposed beside an image of the Capitol dome. The narrator’s words and counting numbers and dollar figures also appear. As the ad ends, McCollum slowly blinks.

“This is a weak, misleading ad from a candidate and party desperate to salvage a message-less, issue-less campaign that has been roundly derided by even their strongest supporters,” said McCollum’s spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.