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.

Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang uses his first congressional campaign ad on TV to promise voters that he will champion a progressive agenda if they send him to Washington, D.C.

He opens the 30-second spot by touting Hawaii’s history of firsts in the nation, including the state Supreme Court’s recognition of marriage equality and legalizing a woman’s right to choose.

Stanley Chang

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

As the camera cuts to a closer shot of the 31-year-old candidate, the soft-spoken Chang says he wants to continue that same “bold tradition” by pushing to label genetically modified food, make the state energy independent and establish universal preschool — three controversial issues Hawaii has spent more time talking about than actually doing anything about.

The ad, which started running last week, presents an overly rehearsed Chang as the most liberal candidate in the crowded Democratic field vying to represent the 1st Congressional District, which covers Oahu’s urban corridor.

The leading candidates in the race are far more conservative, particularly when it comes to social issues. Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, the frontrunner in Civil Beat’s February poll, voted against gay marriage last year. And while state Rep. Mark Takai voted for that bill, it was a shift from his position just a few years earlier when he opposed civil unions.

Chang may trail in the polls, but he has a lot of money in his campaign coffers to try to turn that around between now and the Aug. 9 primary. As of March 31, Chang had $331,212 on hand, almost $10,000 more than Takai but far less than Kim’s $534,893.

Chang’s ad takes a clean and simple approach, a notable contrast from the busier ad Takai ran last month that packed in points about his military service and key endorsements. It’s a strategic decision for each campaign.

Takai’s ad offers more bang for the buck in terms of information, but the risk is losing retention. Chang’s ad sticks to a few points, which makes recall easier but lacks breadth.

The simplistic nature of Chang’s ad may leave him more exposed to criticism for his youthfulness, considering his challengers have decades on him. Instead of splicing in scenes of kupuna or keiki to make it more dynamic, the camera stays on Chang the entire ad as he stands in a lonely studio with the lighting just on him.

Here’s the video:

Contact Nathan Eagle via email at neagle@civilbeat.com or Twitter at @NathanEagle.

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