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Originally published October 15, 2009 at 1:22 AM | Page modified October 15, 2009 at 12:04 AM

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Campaign-ad assault hits the airwaves; $1.1M to be spent

Highly contested races for Seattle mayor, King County executive and a pair of statewide ballot measures will spawn at least $1.1 million on TV advertising in the next three weeks in the Puget Sound area.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The campaign-season assault on the TV airwaves starts in earnest this week, bringing viewers everything from teachers opposing Tim Eyman's tax-cutting initiative to Seattle mayoral candidate Mike McGinn's spots during NFL games.

Tight races for Seattle mayor, King County executive and a pair of statewide ballot measures mean at least $1.1 million will be spent in the next three weeks on network and cable stations in the area, according to TV contracts and financial reports.

McGinn's opponent, Joe Mallahan, ordered about $90,000 in TV ads, as of Tuesday, thanks to a 2-to-1 fundraising advantage over the past six weeks. But the spending has also left Mallahan $95,000 in debt, according to financial reports posted late Tuesday.

Ballots in the all-mail election began going out to voters Wednesday. To be counted, they must be postmarked by Nov. 3.

McGinn, running a low-budget campaign without paid staff, has opted for cheaper cable-only TV ads, spending about $55,000, including a dozen spots during ESPN's NFL broadcasts.

The biggest TV spenders are the No on 1033 campaign — seeking to defeat Eyman's latest initiative — and by proponents of Referendum 71, which would uphold the state's "everything but marriage" law. No on 1033 had booked more than $520,000 of TV ad time as of Tuesday. Washington Families Standing Together, the pro-Ref. 71 campaign, has contracts worth $415,000. No pro-I-1033 or anti-Ref. 71 ad time had been booked as of Tuesday.

In the race for King County executive, Dow Constantine, who has raised $804,028 so far, bought about $55,000 in TV advertising for this week, according to his campaign.

His opponent, former KIRO anchorwoman Susan Hutchison, is absent from TV, although she has spent $19,200 producing an ad.

She has raised about $300,000 less than Constantine, a Metropolitan King County Council member, but has about $50,000 more in cash.

Mallahan, a political newcomer campaigning on his experience as a businessman, is running a big-budget campaign that includes about $24,100 in monthly payroll, including a speechwriter and paid fundraiser.

Although campaigns often run up debts, the size of his deficit is surprising after having raised $555,000, including $232,000 of his own money. Among his debts is $50,000 to a TV ad buyer and $24,000 owed to a pollster.

Charla Neuman, Mallahan's spokeswoman, said Mallahan would not put in any more of his own money. The campaign will try to make up the deficit in the last weeks of the campaign "and beyond," she said. "We're hoping it won't be too much 'and beyond.' "

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Michael Grossman, a Seattle political consultant not affiliated with either campaign, said Mallahan's overhead reflects a strategy to "staff to his weaknesses" as first-time candidate.

McGinn's TV advertising, Grossman said, appears to be targeting younger voters, "which is the NFL audience."

McGinn, who was has been involved with previous local campaigns, spent about $2,800 on campaign overhead in the past six weeks and has about $17,000 cash on hand. He raised $61,800 in that period, less than half of Mallahan's $141,800.

"We're not going to match Joe in paid voter contacts, but I believe we'll be far exceeding them" in phone calls and other methods, McGinn said.

Staff reporter Bob Young contributed to this report. Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

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