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.

Just two weeks ago, the Republican Governors Association began airing a television commercial attempting to link David Ige to Neil Abercrombie. The RGA called the two Democrats “good partners,” even though the state senator toppled the incumbent governor in the primary.

National Republicans believe the Hawaii governorship is up for grabs, and a recent Civil Beat poll shows that Ige has just a 4 percentage point lead over Duke Aiona. Now, the Democratic Governors Association is firing back.

A group called Hawaii Forward, a coalition backed by the DGA and Hawaii-based organizations, is running a TV spot in Ige’s favor titled “Leadership.” Watch the ad:

Important campaign buzz words like “education”, “job creation,” “fiscal responsibility” and a “strong middle class” are featured in the spot. It also notes that Ige is the son of a construction worker and a nurse. A man of the common people!

The ad also shows a great black-and-white photo of a very young Ige and his five brothers. The picture has been used before — by Ige, actually, who has it on his campaign webpage biography. The DGA must by law operate independently from Ige’s campaign, but this sort of seemingly coincidental overlap happens a lot.

The most important word in the DGA ad is “Democrat,” as in “David Ige, Democrat for Governor.” In a one-party state where Republicans have made few inroads, playing the Democrat card is playing the ace in the hole.

The Race for Governor

Not surprisingly, Hawaii Republicans don’t care for the new video, which first ran on Sept 22.

“If Democrats consider a worsening fiscal outlook, the second most overtaxed middle class and the dubious distinction as the worst place to make a living as reasons to support the Abercrombie-Ige policy agenda, then it is clear they are out of touch with the day-to-day struggles of Hawaii families,” said Blake Parsons, the executive director of the Hawaii Republican Party, in a press release the same day the ad first aired.

Parsons continued: “After four years of Governor Abercrombie and Senator Ige’s policies, it’s time we elect leaders like Duke Aiona who offer common-sense alternatives to the broken status quo.”

Speaking of Aiona, the former lieutenant governor has a new ad of his own out. Listen, and see:

Titled “Not an Option,” the latest from the Aiona campaign continues a pattern seen in earlier ads on behalf of the candidate: Aiona as family man. It’s a softer, warmer presentation of Aiona that many will find appealing. It also compliments a major campaign theme: “It’s time for a new direction for Hawaii.”

I don’t know for sure if that is Aiona’s own grandchild that he is seen holding tenderly, but Aiona, the grandfather of two young ones, loves to talk about the latest additions to his growing brood.

Affordable housing is a big issue being pushed by Aiona. Note that the young couple moving furniture in the commercial appears to be moving in rather than moving out.

Finally, interesting to see that the word “Republican” does not appear in this ad, as in “Duke Aiona, Republican for Governor.”

The Race for the 1st Congressional

Speaking of Republicans, Charles Djou, who is running for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, has released his first campaign ad of the season.

“This ad highlights the critical importance of growing our economy so families can stay together,” the Djou campaign said in a media advisory when the ad was released Sept. 25.

Check it out:

Djou’s ad reminds me of an ad from Mark Takai, Djou’s Democratic opponent, that ran during the primary election. It features Takai’s family, especially his kids.

It has been a trend this year, placing a candidate’s keiki in ads. Think of Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui’s three girls screaming “Daddy!”

Another trend is the reliance on spouses to do the ad narration. Stacey Djou does the honors here, just as Dawn Ige voiced a primary ad for her husband David.

One other observation about Djou’s first ad: There is no mention of the word “Republican.”

Speaking of Takai, he has a new TV ad, too:

Takai has utilized the support of Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat representing Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, before in his campaign.

This ad is particularly effective because it reminds voters of Takai’s military service. (The Djou ad also plays up Djou’s service, showing him in uniform in Afghanistan.) The Takai ad also brings up his time as editor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa student newspaper, when he published stories on sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment has been in the news a lot lately. When someone of the stature of Duckworth says that Takai will “fight military sexual assault” and support “equal pay for equal work,” it’s a strong pitch.

One other observation: The ad ends with the words “Mark Takai, Democrat for Congress.”

Other Campaign Videos of Note

What follows are not campaign commercials per se, as they are not paid advertisements airing on local network television.

But the videos do present interesting perspectives on the other two candidates for governor, Hawaii Independent Party candidate Mufi Hannemann and Libertarian Jeff Davis.

The Hannemann video is taken from his Sept. 23 appearance at a candidate forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. Addressing health care, the former Honolulu mayor says he wants to double the number of doctors in the state:

The video is on Hannemann’s campaign website, where other campaign videos are posted.

Davis has videos on his campaign website, too. They include a music video titled “Have a Heart for the Children.” You’ll see Davis himself playing guitar in the video.

The video’s producer is Tom Berg, a fellow Libertarian now running for the state House of Representatives and who’s apparently in a Woodstock 1968 phase. That’s him in the headband in the screen shot below.

Finally, Republican Cam Cavasso also has campaign videos. He’s running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Brian Schatz.

Since Cavasso doesn’t have much campaign money and trails Schatz badly in a recent Civil Beat poll, and because there are no debates scheduled between them, you probably won’t see him much on your TV.

Speaking of Schatz, he hasn’t run any ads since squeaking by Hanabusa in the primary. But his clips are still up on his campaign website.

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