Political ads return to TV ahead of June primary

With six weeks to go until the June 9 primary, some Democrats running for U.S. Senate have officially taken their campaigns to the airwaves.

Former Columbus, Ga. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson began running television ads Tuesday.  According to her campaign, the $50,000 ad buy is concentrated in metro Atlanta.

Jon Ossoff was the first senate hopeful to take his message to television. His campaign said they spent an estimated $200,000 on ads beginning in Atlanta last week and statewide this week.

"It's probably the most effective way for campaigns to communicate with voters at a time when we're sheltered in place," explained Tharon Johnson, CEO of Paramount Consulting Group and a panelist on The Georgia Gang.  

Both ads highlighted the coronavirus pandemic, though Ossoff's focused on health insurance reform and Tomlinson's zeroed in on what she deemed "incompetence in a crisis" from Republican leaders.  

"I think that their campaign teams were very, very particular about the tone of the ads, making sure that you acknowledge that we're living a new norm and we will continue to live a new norm as the campaign season continues to evolve," said Johnson.

With so many Georgians expected to vote by mail-in absentee ballot ahead of the primary, political strategists said it is important for them to connect with voters now.

"We've never had an election in Georgia history where the date of the election was more irrelevant.  The election will be done really before June 9th when the polls will be open, in theory--we don't really know what's going to happen," explained Brian Robinson, president of Robinson Republic.  "Fact is people are voting today.  If you are advertising in the last three weeks of the campaign, sending mail, doing digital messaging, you're too late.  Too many ballots have already been sent in."

Right now, the other well-known Democrat in the race, Sarah Riggs Amico, does not have any TV ads planned.

"Our campaign is currently focused on engaging with voters at the individual and community level," said Campaign Manager Abigail Collazo.  "Our volunteer-driven field program has reached thousands of Georgians, and we're having in-depth conversations to check on our neighbors, offer help and resources in these hard times, and share Sarah's story and commitment to standing up for working families. Sarah has participated in more than two dozen virtual events with a wide range of constituencies, and she'll continue working hard to reach every voter in every corner of the state to earn their vote."

The current health crisis has changed things significantly for Georgia's other Senate race. A couple of months ago the contest between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins dominated the political landscape, but those ads have disappeared.

"If you don't have to be advertising right now and Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins don't have to be, it's a good time to reserve those resources for later in the year when we get to our new sense of normalcy," said Robinson.