EAST LANSING (AP) – Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra is taking a page from Gov. Rick Snyder’s playbook by running an ad Sunday before the Super Bowl.
Snyder, then an unknown businessman running against better-known opponents for the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nomination, created quite a buzz with his quirky ad promoting his nerdy image. Hoekstra is spending less money but hopes to see a similar bump with his 30-second spot that focuses on the woman he hopes to run against, Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow.
“Some people may think it has a little bit of a bite to it,” Hoekstra said during Friday’s taping of public television’s “Off the Record” program, describing the ad as not the typical political commercial. “Republicans will clearly see we’re engaging Debbie.”
Stabenow’s campaign issued a Friday fundraising letter saying Hoekstra’s using the ad to gloss over his record.
“He is betting that slick Super Bowl ads will be enough to make Michigan forget that he works at a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, voted for the Wall Street bailout and wants to protect tax breaks for millionaires,” the letter said. It asked for donations to help Stabenow fight back.
During the show, Hoekstra said he legally can’t lobby Congress in his job as a senior adviser at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a law and lobbying firm in Washington. His role as a business consultant instead includes helping some companies deal with the federal government.
“I work with these companies and develop strategies for them to sell overseas, create American jobs,” said Hoekstra, a Holland Republican who served 18 years in the U.S. House after working as a marketing executive for furniture maker Herman Miller Inc. “In some cases, they may have to get approval from the federal government. We may help them do that.”
Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer told reporters in a Friday conference call that running an ad six months before the Aug. 7 primary election is an indication that Hoekstra knows he has an image problem because of his ties to a Washington lobbying firm. Brewer said spending only $35,000 to air the ad means it won’t have much impact, even though it’s being shown statewide.
“Snyder, when he did his Super Bowl ad, was completely unknown” and could use the ad to craft his image, Brewer said. “People already know Pete’s image as a Washington insider. … It will take a lot more money than that to change” it. Hoekstra said it was a “penny pincher” buy, a tie to his campaign promise to shrink federal spending if he’s elected. The ad will air during the game in one of Michigan’s six media markets and before the game in others. His campaign also will spend about $100,000 airing the ad over the next two weeks on cable TV shows targeted at GOP voters.
Hoekstra heads into the Senate race as the apparent Republican front-runner, with better name recognition than competitors such as Detroit charter schools executive Clark Durant.
But Hoekstra also has some weaknesses to address, according to a recent EPIC-MRA poll conducted for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV. A quarter of the 600 likely voters surveyed had no opinion of him and a similar percentage didn’t recognize his name, even though he came in second to Snyder in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial campaign. Hoekstra also has a mixed record with tea party groups. The Tea Party Patriots of West Oakland County endorsed Durant three weeks ago, and some tea party groups are hoping to agree later this month on a consensus candidate that’s unlikely to be Hoekstra. But other tea party groups aren’t involved with that effort, and Hoekstra is working to win their endorsements.
Stabenow continues to lead her opponents in fundraising and has about $5.9 million in her campaign chest, compared to about $1.5 million for Hoekstra and a little over $1 million for Durant. The recent poll showed that 52 percent had a favorable opinion of her while 35 percent held an unfavorable opinion. Only 2 percent didn’t recognize the two-term senator’s name.
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