Editor’s Note: It’s an election year and that means lots of political commercials. Ad Watch is an occasional Civil Beat series in which we help you understand what you’re seeing and hearing when it comes to campaign messages from Hawaii candidates.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa touts her local roots and sympathy for the middle class in her first ad of the 2014 Senate campaign season.

But Hanabusa is late to the airwaves, and has a lot of ground to make up when compared to her opponent, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

The congresswoman’s ad comes nearly two months after Schatz aired his first TV spot.

And Hanabusa’s ad, unlike Schatz’s, plays on the radio, highlighting the frugalness of her campaign.

Listen to Hanabusa’s ad here:

The spot sheds little light on where she stands on the issues. Instead, it’s all about Hawaii values and telling listeners she’s a local girl from Waianae, who grew up behind her family’s gas station.

“It was the best way to grow up,” Hanabusa says, “around people and traditions and cultures.”

She also makes a pitch to lower and middle class voters, many of whom might struggle to afford a home in Hawaii where the median price hovers around $650,000.

“You know a good living, a good education, a good job, a good home, those aren’t things that should belong only to the privileged and the fortunate,” Hanabusa said. “That’s what I’m fighting for in Washington.”

The narrator in the minute-long spot also previews what could be a campaign slogan for Hanabusa moving forward — “from Waianae to Washington.”

It’s an effective tool to paint Hanabusa — a wealthy labor attorney and lawmaker — as a woman of the people.

And in a primary race where the differences between the candidates is often a matter of nuance, focusing on personality might be what it takes to send her to the Senate.

This is a much different tack than her opponent, whose first three TV spots have focused more on core Democratic issues, such as Social Security, equal pay for women and gun control.

That doesn’t mean Schatz hasn’t also touched on his own family values and local ties. He’s just been more subtle, incorporating those elements through visuals of his multi-generational, ethnic family.

But what the ad says more than anything else is that Hanabusa is hurting for cash.

Schatz has a nearly 2-to-1 fundraising advantage over the congresswoman, according to the latest campaign finance reports from the Federal Election Commission. He also has nearly one-and-half times more cash on hand.

This has helped the senator maintain a constant presence on the airwaves, and gives him a significant edge moving forward.

But previous polls found Schatz had a name recognition problem when compared to Hanabusa.

The question now is whether he has enough cash to overcome that, especially now that she’s purchased her own airtime.

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