With 13 candidates in the Democratic primary for Baltimore mayor, it's hard to criticize anyone for anything that helps him or her cut through the clutter.

The first TV ad from City Councilman Carl Stokes does stand out. But whether that's a good or bad thing will probably depend on the eye of the beholder.


Opening with the sound of a police siren, the spot is loud and aurally obnoxious right from the start.

And then, there's Stokes brandishing a handgun.

Actually, for the first five seconds of the ad, the gun is featured more prominently than the candidate. He's in the background, slightly out of focus, waving the gun in his right hand while the camera shows the weapon in close-up.

"In Baltimore, too many of our children wind up with this," Stokes says in an angry voice as the camera closes in on the gun.

"And that leads to these," he continues, bringing a pair of handcuffs into the camera's line of focus with his left hand.

"This city spends this much on incarceration," Stokes continues spreading his arms as wide as he can.

"And only this much on education," he adds, holding the thumb and forefinger of his left hand close together.

"I'm Carl Stokes," he continues, the camera closing in to his face. "I said this 20 years ago. Maybe today, people will listen."

The screens fills with the words: "89 percent not proficient in reading and math."

And that's followed by Stokes holding a piece of paper that says "High School Diploma."

"This is what our children need. But city hall doesn't work. Our schools don't work. So, our people don't work," he says. "I'm Carl Stokes. Let's get Baltimore working."

From the agitated tone of voice, to the gun, handcuffs, sirens, loud music and poses of confrontation with crossed arms, this is the imagery of an ad for a criminal defense attorney or, maybe, a syndicated crimebusters reality show.

I am going to hold off on grading it, until I have a large enough sample of ads to give all or most of the members of this class of mayoral candidates a report card.

But I am wondering what voters think of this first TV ad  from Stokes. Please let me know.