Jim Gray launches TV ad

Jim Gray, left and Jim Newberry
Jim Gray, left and Jim Newberry

Vice Mayor Jim Gray kicked off the Lexington mayoral television ad wars Friday with a positive 60-second spot that will air for 10 days.

Mayor Jim Newberry, meanwhile, released a 16-page document that amplifies a charge he made in the primary election that Gray repeatedly missed public meetings and important votes.

The Gray ad, titled Home, is largely biographical, telling the story of Gray Construction, his family business.

According to the public ad file at WKYT-TV, Gray's campaign is spending nearly $63,000 to show his new ad on four Lexington stations through Sept. 13. The Gray campaign said it also is running on cable outlets.

The ad is quite different from Gray's lone primary campaign ad, which talked about the long-stalled CentrePointe development and other events Gray called "scandals" of Newberry's administration.

The Newberry document, called Gray's "Missed List," alleges that the vice mayor missed nearly half the meetings of the Lexington Center Corp., 75 percent of meetings on Lexington's part of the federal stimulus package, and 72 percent of the meetings of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which deals in traffic issues for Fayette and Jessamine counties.

Questions to the Gray campaign Friday were fielded by Dale Emmons, a long-time political consultant who is the father of Gray campaign manager Jamie Emmons.

Dale Emmons said Newberry's attendance document was "based on distortions, omissions and falsehoods."

Dale Emmons contended that Newberry had missed 55 percent more Urban County Council meetings than Gray and that the list ignored four meetings in which both the mayor and vice mayor were absent. He also pointed out that the vice mayor position is part-time, while the mayor's job is full-time.

Although the "missed meetings" charge is old, the Newberry campaign for the first time compiled a list of votes it says Gray skipped by not being at Urban County Council meetings. Those included votes on funding for women who are victims of rape and domestic violence, on federal grant applications and on equipment for police recruits.

None was controversial or likely would have resulted in a close vote on the council.

"That's not the point," Newberry campaign manager Lance Blanford said. "The point is if he wants to make a difference, he has to show up."

In a statement, Blanford said that, with Gray's attendance record, "It surprised me he showed up" to film his own ad.

Asked when the Newberry campaign would begin running television ads, Blanford said the mayor already is on television in a snippet of the vice mayor's ad, "breaking ground and creating jobs."

At the end of the Gray ad, three unidentified people are shown talking about Gray's qualifications to be mayor. When the Gray campaign was asked who those people are and whether they are employees of Gray Construction, Dale Emmons said none was a city employee, but he declined to give more information.

Don Dugi, a Transylvania University political scientist, noted that political ad campaigns traditionally start after Labor Day.

Gray might have been interested in getting an early start because voters will sometimes remember the first pitch they hear, he said.

Dugi said the early ad also could be related to a recent cn|2 Poll that showed Newberry leading Gray by 13 points, with 20.5 percent undecided.

The poll of 503 likely Fayette County voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. It was conducted Aug. 23 and 24 by Braun Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J., on behalf of Insight Communications' news division.

It would be difficult to convert a large number of Newberry supporters, Dugi said, but "Gray's people seem to believe they have to move quickly to try to capture as much of that 20.5 percent (of undecided voters) as they can."