In an attempt to kick-start his sputtering gubernatorial campaign, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg took his message to voters yesterday with the first of a series of television ads.
The 30-second spot introduces him to Baltimore viewers as the gubernatorial candidate with a reputation for "independence, common sense and accountability" and is clearly designed to distance him from his boss and former running mate, Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The ad stresses his "independence" by referring to his opposition to the Schaefer administration's so-called Linowes commission tax package during the 1991 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
Mr. Steinberg, a Democrat and former Baltimore County state senator who was born and reared in the city, is also credited in the ads with writing the state's ethics laws for lawmakers and lobbyists and requiring background checks for child-care job applicants.
At one point, the announcer tells viewers: "He stood up to the governor and opposed the $800 million tax hike to protect Maryland's working families."
It does not mention, however, that Mr. Steinberg, the administration's chief legislative strategist in 1991, developed his own $200 million compromise tax proposal before abandoning it and refusing to testify for Mr. Schaefer's plan.
Mr. Steinberg's ad will air on WBAL-TV, WJZ-TV and WBFF-TV 64 times a week in a "saturation" ad campaign.
Joe Trippi, a principal in Trippi, McMahon & Squier, the national political media consultants based in Alexandria, Va., and hired by Mr. Steinberg, said the Baltimore television market "reaches a full 66 percent of voters in this primary."
Mr. Steinberg's campaign, beset by miscues, has been stumbling along for months, and the start of the advertising blitz comes on the heels of poll results this week showing the one-time Democratic front-runner falling into fourth place.
Mr. Trippi conceded yesterday that Mr. Steinberg had lost the "insider's game" to the present Democratic front-runner for governor, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, the only other gubernatorial candidate to launch a television ad campaign so far.
"We're going to take the game off the insider's playing field and put it in front of the voters and see who wins that fight," Mr. Trippi said. "Parris clearly won among the insiders. . . . I think that's what's responsible for what's happened to this point: Parris cut the deals . . . and was willing to do things that Mickey wasn't and didn't do."