You can frequently tell the nature of the political commercial based on whether the first few frames of video are in color or black and white. Thus, when the latest spot in the race for Attorney General ran with San Francisco DA Kamala Harris in a photo, smiling but sans chrome, I knew what to expect.
The Democratic candidate was being taken to task for not seeking the dealth penalty in the case of a San Francisco police officer who had been murdered by an assault gun wielding gang member. While various aspects of the story were in color (the victm’s mother, the funeral photo) Harris never got beyond gray.
What was interesting to the political eye wasn’t so much the commercial but from where it came: “The Republican State Leadership Committee."
This wasn’t a “hit piece” from Republican Steve Cooley. This was an “independent expenditure” from a group that was first put together by the GOP in 2002 to help build some bench strength in the party. The RSLC is the brainchild of former Bush White House advisor Ed Gullespie. The focus was to raise money to help elect Republicans to the state offices that don’t get as much attention as the race for governor or Senate. Millions have been raised to spend in campaigns for the state legislature, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and the like.
But besides getting younger Republicans elected, there is also the addition effect of helping snuff out the political futures of the other party’s “down-ballot” candidates. Keep them from gaining traction in the lower office and you won’t need to worry about them when they seek the higher one.
Kamala Harris is a perfect example. There is no mystery why an expected $1.3 million will be spent to defeat her on election day. She is young, bright, African American, very attractive, an effective communicator with an interesting background. And although Harris carries the baggage of being a San Francisco liberal she is exactly what the opposition party doesn’t want to run against down the road. Beat her now or face her in a race for governor some day.
Adam Temple, a spokesman for the group, says he would be perfectly happy with the “byproduct” of Harris’ defeat. He points out however that Republicans are interested in state attorney generals who will challenge federal mandates that are part of the Obama health care reform act. Harris says she won’t. Cooley says he will consider it.
On Monday, the Harris campaign announced it would file a complaint against the Republican group with the Fair Political Practices Commission. They contend most of the donations for the RSLC come from oil and tobacco companies and thus should be disclosed in the ads.
Temple counters that there are over 100,000 donors to the Republican group. What is certain is that no longer are the lesser candidate off the national radar. No longer satisfied with going after the big leaguers now both parties are focusing their attention on the farm clubs as well.