Van Hollen airs first TV ad of Senate

Rep. Chris Van Hollen will begin airing the first television advertisement of the state's Senate contest next week, making an introductory pitch that is heavily focused on Baltimore voters.

The ad, which will begin running on broadcast and cable television on Monday, touts statements calling Van Hollen "a hero" to environmental groups, gun control advocates and educators. It also reinforces a theme the campaign has been touting for months, the idea that he is an "effective" leader in Congress.

The ad, the first of the Senate contest, starts out by defining Van Hollen as the "son of a Baltimore native," and then calls him "a leader in Congress, protecting Social Security and women's rights."

Van Hollen, a seven-term lawmaker from Montgomery County, is running against Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince George's County for the seat that will be left vacant in 2017 by retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Neither lawmaker is as well known in Baltimore as they are in the Washington suburbs.

The decision to run the first ad in Baltimore, and focus on the city, underscores several dynamics in play in the race, including that both candidates are working to introduce themselves to voters in the area.

Advertising in the Baltimore media market is also substantially less expensive than in the Washington suburbs -- an imbalance that gives an advantage to statewide candidates already well known in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The Van Hollen campaign spent about $70,000 on its initial broadcast buy. The number does not include the cost of the cable time.

The ad is also the latest indication that the campaigns are not waiting for Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings to announce whether he'll seek the seat before reaching out to Baltimore-area voters.

Cummings has said he will announce a decision at the end of the month, but his third-quarter fundraising does not indicate he is preparing for statewide campaign.

Neither Van Hollen nor Edwards have disclosed how much they raised in the third quarter of the year -- those reports are due to the Federal Election Commission next week -- but Van Hollen has so far raised significantly more than Edwards.

The primary is set for April 26.

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