Editor’s Note: Welcome to Ad Watch, an occasional Civil Beat series in which we analyze campaign messages from Hawaii candidates.

Hawaii Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is one of two state senators running for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and one of seven candidates in the race.

Kim has been described as the CD1 frontrunner, has proved very effective at raising campaign money for the race and currently leads in the polls.

So, after 30 years in elective office — as a state representative, Honolulu City councilwoman and later senator — Kim doesn’t much of a problem when it comes to name recognition. What, then, does she need to show voters in her run for Congress?

That she’s a local girl with deep roots and values, one who has climbed far to reach a pinnacle of power.

Check it out:

“Donna Mercado Kim: Rooted in Values,” which clocks in at just over four minutes and is posted on her campaign website, shows viewers a side of the candidate most may not be aware of: A locally raised woman from very humble origins who rose to one of the most important positions in the state.

The clip begins with a quote from Roy Disney: “When your values are clear … making decisions becomes easier.” Those values, the video explains, began in a modest home near Palama Settlement, a nonprofit social service agency serving the Kalihi and Palama neighborhoods that was built in 1896.

“It was a safe haven to me,” says Kim, who narrates most of the video.

There are plenty of black-and-white, and later, color photographs of Kim growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. A product of public schools, she went to Likelike School, Kalakaua Intermediate and Farrington High.

Kim explains that her mom worked nights as a waitress, while her dad worked days as a clerk and was not around a lot.

“It was really my mom who pretty much reared us,” she says.

Cue the mom — Lily Mercado Kim — who says on screen, “Nobody had hot water … hot water was a luxury. if you had high water, you were a little more high class.”

The viewer’s takeaway: Donna Kim grew up poor in a poor neighborhood.

Then comes Katherine Kim Morris — Donna Kim’s sister — who says the close-knit community “really took care of each other.”

“Life was tough, but you strived and you worked hard,” Kim says next in a voiceover, as a photo shows the grown, accomplished woman visiting her childhood home on Lakimela Lane. “You tried to make a better life.”

Message: Donna made it, and it was all based on the work ethic instilled by her parents. No wonder she heeded the call to public service, which is depicted next in the video.

“She thought she could make a difference,” says her sister as the video’s soundtrack builds like “Chariots of Fire.”

Kim soon says, “I know I have this image of being tough, but this isn’t an easy job. … I take my job very seriously. It’s not a game to me. It’s not a game of politics.”

Enter son Micah Au, who says “At the end of the day, she doesn’t answer to anyone but herself and her constituents.”

Donna Kim won’t take guff from anyone; sure, she can be a little rough, but that’s what’s necessary in order to succeed in a business like the public’s business.

The video does not explain that Kim is a single mother, or that she also is a graduate of Washington State University. It does not mention her legislative accomplishments, nor her record of examining closely the University of Hawaii.

But it does show a strong woman who has achieved much in a political world still dominated by men who did not necessarily come from an impoverished neighborhood.

After viewing “Donna Mercado Kim: Rooted in Values,” one may come away with the sense that she would make a formidable member of Congress, even in a Republican House of Representatives dominated by white, conservative men.

Contact Chad Blair via email at cblair@civilbeat.com or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

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