LOS ANGELES – GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon was set to begin airing television commercials Monday, joining GOP rival Richard Riordan and Democratic incumbent Gray Davis on the airwaves.
With the March 5 primary approaching, that leaves Republican Secretary of State Bill Jones, who’s lagging in funding, as the only major candidate without a television presence.
Three different 30-second spots featuring testimonials from Simon’s major endorser, ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, will air in media markets throughout the state, said Simon strategist Sal Russo.
He declined to provide details on the cost or placement of the ads.
Two of the spots show Giuliani in an office setting praising Simon as a qualified, conservative leader.
“Should you vote for Bill Simon? That’s your decision,” Giuliani says at the end of one spot. “But trust me when I tell you that Bill Simon would make a great Republican governor for California.”
Simon worked for Giuliani for 3 1/2 years when Giuliani was U.S. attorney in New York.
The third spot shows a brainstorming session in a boardroom as a group of actors and actual Simon staff members discuss how to raise Simon’s profile.
“We need a major endorsement,” muses one.
“Maybe a Hollywood star, like Bruce Willis?” asks another.
“Or conservative Bruce Herschenson,” suggests a third, referring to the conservative commentator who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in the early ’90s.
At that point Giuliani turns to face the camera and offers to tell people about Simon, as others in the room nod as if to suggest that might be a good idea.
Russo said Simon has received expressions of support from Willis and Herschenson and they would be alerted that their names are being used.
Simon, a wealthy but little-known Los Angeles businessman and the son of a former U.S. treasury secretary, is shown in the ads but does not speak.
“Nobody today would know who he is so you wouldn’t capture people’s attention,” Russo said. “So we’re starting off with Giuliani saying you should listen to what this man has to say.”
Simon’s opponents have dismissed the significance of Simon’s endorsement from Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Polls show Simon lagging behind Jones and Riordan, the front-runner.
“Bill Simon is running for governor, not former Mayor Giuliani,” said Jones strategist Sean Walsh. “One has to wonder based on the Simon campaign whether Mr. Simon is going to campaign around the state wearing a Rudolph Giuliani mask.”
Jones will be on the air with television ads fairly soon, Walsh said.