NY-22 Minute: Comparing Dueling Campaign Ads By Luke Perry and Jonathan Kirshenbaum
Television advertisements are a predominant mode of messaging for Congressional campaigns. This piece compares the campaign ads for Anthony Brindisi and Claudia Tenney in NY-22.
Brindisi’s Campaign Ads
Anthony Brindisi’s campaign ads emphasized family and bipartisanship. Jobs and healthcare were two major issues of focus. The ads were much more positive, focusing on the candidate, Brindisi’s family and his record in the Assembly, than negative, attacking his opponent Claudia Tenney.
Brindisi’s first ad in July was an extended spot that introduced the candidate, his family, and positions on issues, such as healthcare. Brindisi’s second ad, released days later, featured his children, and focused on employment. Brindisi highlighted jobs created from his work in the Assembly, including those related to the high tech sector, drones, and the Utica Comets. Brindisi’s third ad similarly focused on jobs and Brindisi’s family, using baseball as a backdrop to discuss job creation as an important means to address population loss upstate.
Brindisi’s Spectrum ad was noteworthy because Spectrum originally refused to air it. The spot began with Brindisi saying, “if you’re watching this ad on Spectrum cable, you’re getting ripped off.” This ad included Brindisi’s first attacks on Claudia Tenney. “Tenney’s campaign is bankrolled by Spectrum,” Brindisi stated, and claimed Tenney supported tax breaks for Spectrum as they raised rates on customers.
Brindisi highlighted his opposition to corruption in one ad, which focused on how he “helped to orchestrate Sheldon Silver’s ouster.” The spot emphasize Brindisi’s willingness to stand up to party leaders or “anyone who wants to hurt New York.”
Remaining ads returned to a policy focus of jobs and healthcare. One ad focused on job training so that people had the skills necessary to fill available jobs. Another ad focused on healthcare for first responders, and Brindi’s collaboration with GOP State Senator Joe Griffo to help voluntary fire fighters become eligible for cancer benefits.
Tenney’s Campaign Ads
Tenney’s campaign ads were predominately negative, attacking Anthony Brindisi personally, for being dishonest and hypocritical, and professionally, for his perceived stances on various issues. The economy, tax policy, and immigration were issues of focus. A main theme was an overarching effort to link Brindisi to Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Cuomo, and Sheldon Silver, who were portrayed as being too liberal and too corrupt for the district.
Claudia Tenney’s first ad, released in July, opened by connecting Brindisi to Nancy Pelosi and contending their “liberal agenda” is “too extreme for upstate New York.” Tenney highlighted her support of President Trump’s agenda and emphasized fixing bad trade deals, lowering taxes, raising wages, and cutting taxes. Similarly, Tenney’s second ad also opened by criticizing Nancy Pelosi and sought to link Brindisi to support for sanctuary cities, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and providing tax breaks for illegal immigrants.
Tenney’s first positive ad emphasized the “honesty, ethics, and compassion” she inherited from her parents. Subsequent ads (examples here & here) highlighted her experiences as a single mother, and a family business owner, dedicated to fighting corruption in Albany and Washington.
Several of Tenney ads were vignettes where individuals provided testimonials (examples here, here & here) for Tenney as a person, who took care of her ailing parents, and a representative, who advocated for gun owners and addressing the opioid crisis.
Several others revisited New York State politics (examples here, here, here, & here) with ads critical of Governor Cuomo and Sheldon Silver, and positions on issues, such as immigration and abortion. Attacks on Brindisi were pointed, accusing him of being an untrustworthy, hypocritical liar.
Later ads (examples here & here) emphasized the progress Tenney and the Trump administration have made toward furthering economic growth, and protecting healthcare and constitutional rights. One ad was a personal appeal by Tenney, who said she was “fighting for what is right,” while “corrupt politicians” attack her.
Claudia Tenney’s ads were clearly more negative and critical of Anthony Brindisi than Brindisi’s ads were of her. This was likely a product of Tenney’s political style, being consistently outspoken against her critics, and her strategy, trying to define Brindisi unfavorably outside of Oneida County, where less people are familiar with him.
Tenney’s negative approach was unhelpful to her favorability ratings, which have been consistently under water. Still, today’s outcome will determine if she was ultimately successful in rallying the Trump base in NY-22 and dissuading moderate Republicans and independents from supporting Brindisi.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College
Jonathan Kirshenbaum is a student at Hamilton College