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San Diego Political Campaigns Switch To Emotion-Driven Ads

Evening Edition

Carl Luna, a political science professor at Mesa College, and Sara Libby, managing editor at Voice of San Diego, talk to KPBS about the latest round of campaign ads.

Aired 11/1/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Carl Luna, Political Science professor, Mesa College

Sara Libby, Managing Editor, Voice of San Diego



Brian Bilbray for Congress 2012

Brian Bilbray for Congess 2012


Bob Filner for Mayor

Bob Finer for San Diego Mayor


Carl DeMaio for Mayor

Carl Demaio for San Diego Mayor

In the final weeks before the election, some campaign ads in San Diego have turned emotional.

An ad for Congressman Brian Bilbray's 52nd Congressional District campaign features his daughter Briana, who identifies herself as a terminal cancer patient. In a Bob Filner for mayor ad, the children of murdered police officer Chris Wilson ask viewers to imagine how they felt when City Councilman Carl DeMaio voted twice against death benefits for slain police officers. And in a Carl DeMaio for mayor ad, a baggage handler says she was afraid for her safety during a run-in with Filner.

San Diego's mayoral and 52nd Congressional races are extremely close, which means campaigns will try almost anything in their ads, said Carl Luna, a political science professor at Mesa College.

"When you're this close...people are simply going to have to appeal to emotion if you're going to get those undecided voters in the game," he said.

While Bilbray says in his ad that "some things are more important than politics," the ad is political, said Sara Libby, managing editor at Voice of San Diego.

"(Bilbray) said he opposes the Affordable Care Act, he also supports it being overturned, and he wants to fund skin cancer research by using this tanning salon tax that's contained in the Affordable Care Act," she said. "He needs it to do what he says he wants to do in that ad. It's unclear where the funding for that research would come from without the health care reform."

Libby also said DeMaio's ad featuring the baggage handler was "strategic" by only describing in vague terms what happened. Filner was cited for misdemeanor assault and battery in 2007 because the baggage clerk said Filner pushed her after his luggage was delayed. Filner pleaded to trespassing, paid a fine and wrote a letter of apology to the clerk, according to

"If you don't know what she's talking about, the insinuation was that there was some sort of assault or that something sexual took place," Libby said.

Libby said the ad is deeply emotional and could be targeting women.

Filner's ad against DeMaio featuring Wilson's children also plays a negative emotional card, Luna said.

"An ad like this is problematic, it might sway a few votes but you also risk a backlash for looking like you're pushing your opponent on something you shouldn't be," he said.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | November 1, 2012 at 12:46 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

If the voters are so easy to manipulate, so irrational and emotional, that these ads work to sway their vote, then they deserve what happens. The only emotion you should feel from such low-blows is disgust at the pandering and cynicism.

What kind person plays on the illness of his daughter, the family of fallen officers, or the innuendo of an implied sexual assault to their own political gain? Do we really need leaders so desperate to win? If the ends justifies the means, then we have lost our moral compass. Intelligent voters don't like to be manipulated.

Negative ads are only necessary when they hold people accountable by exposing true corruption or fraud, not these petty divisonist issue and tactics.

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Avatar for user 'dolphoto'

dolphoto | November 1, 2012 at 1:34 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

While I don't like any of these ads, I am particularly offended by Bilbray's ads focusing on his daughter's cancer. Rather than showing Bibray as a caring person, what they really say is "vote for me because I have a sick kid." Sympathy is not exactly my top criteria in voting.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 1, 2012 at 1:55 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

You have a lot of nerve, Bilgbray.

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Avatar for user 'bobbyramirez'

bobbyramirez | November 1, 2012 at 4:47 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

Have you seen this article from the NEW YORK TIMES about the San Diego Mayor Race and the LGBT Community? How often does the New York Times take notice of our little ole mayor races?! Click here to check it out:

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