The Republican Party of Minnesota waited until Monday, when there were just 22 days left before Election Day, to run its first ad of the 2006 campaign.
And the ad is a strong attack.
It accuses Attorney General Mike Hatch, the DFL candidate for governor, of having “a history of bullying behavior.”
The DFL calls the ad “a cynical and baseless attack” and a “desperate” to revive the campaign of incumbent Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has fallen behind Hatch in the polls.
“It's time for Minnesota to meet the real Mike Hatch,” said the GOP state chairman, Ron Carey, at a news conference he called to unveil the ad.
Carey said the “real” Hatch is one whom “his fellow DFLers have called as mean as a junkyard dog.”
In the ad, an announcer’s voice says “Minnesota's chief justice has now assigned a special counsel to investigate Hatch.”
It is reference to last week, when a special counsel was appointed to look into an out-of-court phone call between Hatch and Ramsey County Judge William H. Leary.
Leary said the phone call was meant to influence him in a case – a charge Hatch has denied.
The new ad also calls the appointment of a special counsel “unprecedented.” A spokesman for the Minnesota Supreme Court, Kyle Christopherson, said such an appointment is “rare,” but he said it’s not correct to call the appointment unprecedented.
The ad also leaves out an important part of the story: It does not say that Ron Carey, the GOP chairman, filed one of the complaints that led to the appointment.
Leary filed the other complaint.
The state’s DFL chairman, Brian Melendez, called the ad “hypocritical.”
“They have brought a complaint,” he said. “(Then) they did a press release about it. They’re trying to make sure that it becomes a media event, and now they're running an ad against Mike Hatch saying that their accusations must be true.”
The ad also is hitting the air as polls show Hatch is pulling ahead of incumbent governor Tim Pawlenty. The GOP says polls have nothing to do with the timing.
“This has been part of our plan all along, late in the game here,” Carey said, “to start unleashing information about Mike Hatch and his character.
Melendez said voters like Hatch's reputation as a "street fighter," and he said the Republicans are afraid to run on their record.
“We're in the last three weeks of the campaign now,” Melendez said. “And they're getting desperate, and so they're flinging what mud they have at Mike Hatch. It's not going to stick.”
Hatch's campaign manager, Jon Youngdayhl, released a statement, pointing out that Tim Pawlenty -- not hatch -- actually has been sanctioned by the government.
Pawlenty's campaign committee had to pay $600,000 for violations, in 2002.
Pawlenty's spokesman, Brian McClung, said he wouldn't comment on the new ad. But he, too, said voters should think about whether Hatch has the "character" to be governor.