The candidates for Nassau County district attorney have spent a total of $1.4 million to air a dozen television ads over the last two months as they've tried to sway undecided voters in the county's highest-stakes election.
Republican Kate Murray, the Hempstead Town supervisor, has released eight 30-second TV spots, spending $893,965 through Oct. 19, according to state Board of Elections filings.
Democrat Madeline Singas, the acting Nassau district attorney, has released four 30-second ads, and her campaign spent $498,324 on ad buys through Oct. 19.
"It's a nice decent-sized budget for a county of 1.4 million people," Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia political consultant who works primarily for Republicans, said of the total, calling it "standard fare" for a competitive countywide race.
Murray and Singas took traditional approaches in their TV rollouts. Each started with ads that served to introduce them to voters, and only later dived into attacks on each other on issues including domestic violence and political corruption.
Singas, a veteran prosecutor who is seeking her first elected office, is shown in her first spot sitting at a desk, as a narrator says, "She's not a politician, she's a prosecutor."
Murray, supervisor since 2003, sits holding a photo of her late father, Norman, an FBI agent. "He inspired my career in public service, and that's why I'm running for Nassau district attorney," Murray says.
Kenneth Sherrill, a political-science professor at Hunter College in Manhattan, said despite the substantial spending on ads, Singas and Murray face a challenge in getting voters to pay attention in a year without state or federal races.
"Turnout is likely to be low; it's also a low-information race [where] voters aren't likely to know about the candidates," he said. "Which is why it's necessary to introduce yourself."
Attack ads have predominated in recent weeks.
One Singas spot features a photo of Murray standing next to state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who faces federal corruption charges. While never mentioning Skelos, who has pleaded not guilty, the narrator says that Murray "spent a career in politics, never practiced criminal law, never prosecuted a single criminal case -- not one."
Asked to respond to the ad, Murray said Singas "never actually had a commercial where she talks about her priorities, her concerns for the residents."
A Murray ad this month hit Singas on a 2006 domestic violence case she oversaw, in which a Syosset woman had accused her then-husband of threatening her life. The ad uses a 2006 Newsday article in which Singas said the suspect's threat had been provoked.
"Singas blamed the victim," the female narrator says.
Singas called the ad "reckless and baseless." She said the district attorney's office had evidence that the woman was trying to manipulate the courts to win her divorce case and sought a dismissal, which a judge ultimately granted.
Murray defended the ad, saying that domestic violence, along with heroin abuse, "is one of the issues that I'm talking about on the campaign." She said the ad was part of her broader TV strategy to "go right to the issues that are affecting our residents."
Singas campaign manager Isaac Goldberg said the campaign's media strategy has focused on highlighting Singas' career compared with Murray's lack of criminal law work.
"From the start, this campaign has offered a simple choice between a professional prosecutor and a professional politician," Goldberg said.
In the last week, as the election neared, a Singas TV ad repeated Murray's comments at a public event that "I am not a prosecutor, I am a manager." The spot said Murray "never prosecuted one murderer, one drug dealer, one corrupt politician."
Murray, who has the backing of all local police unions, released an ad in which former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani says Murray will "give the problems of drugs, corruption and domestic abuse the attention they deserve."
Giuliani recently criticized Michael McMahon, the Democratic candidate for Staten Island district attorney, who has never been a prosecutor, for never having "prosecuted a case, never tried a case."
But in an appearance in Mineola on Friday, Giuliani said that although Murray lacks criminal law experience, she "has the leadership skills to be able to hire the right people, get the right advice, manage the office correctly."