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First presidential ad to air on Baltimore TV Tuesday -- more likely to follow

WBAL-TV is feeling the Bern with the first presidential ad set to debut Tuesday morning.

Ads for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will start airing tomorrow and run until the April 26 primary election.

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And if Sanders is on Baltimore TV, Hillary Clinton is expected to follow.

The initial WBAL buy from the Sanders campaign is for $67,000 and will feature ads airing mostly during news periods, according to sales orders in the station's public files. The Sanders buy is expected to include three other stations in the market at lesser amounts.

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Station President Dan Joerres said this is the first time he can remember seeing an ad for a presidential candidate on Baltimore TV. Because the Maryland primary is so late in the presidential election cycle, Maryland has historically been cut out of the presidential money.

But the 2016 cycle has been a good one for highly rated Baltimore TV stations like WBAL with a large mayoral field and candidates like David Warnock spending heavily for TV time.

And then, there's a red-hot U.S. Senate race between Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen with PACs backing candidates in a major way on Baltimore TV.

Speaking of WBAL and the mayor's race, the six leading candidates can be seen in a live debate Tuesday at 7 p.m. The debate, which will take place at Maryland Public Television in Owings Mills, can also be seen on MPT and heard on WBAL radio at that time.

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It should be an intense debate given the back-and-forth attack fliers between frontrunner Catherine Pugh and Sheila Dixon, who is in second place, according to the most recent poll, which was done for The Baltimore Sun and University of Baltimore. It's getting too close to election day for the candidates to hold anything back, and the Clean Slate Baltimore PAC has been hammering Dixon hard as it voices support for Pugh.

Stations are required by the Federal Communications Commission to make political ad buys public, but WBAL has been the most conscientious in making them public in a timely way. The station has also posted buys made by PACs, which is not required by the FCC, but is the policy for stations owner Hearst Television, according to Joerres.

The goal of the FCC order mandating online filings is transparency for voters as to who is funding TV ads and how much is being spent. It is a laudable goal that is often sabotaged at the station level in this era of dark political money.

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