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Sacramento Bee

Simon Airs New TV Ad -- en Español

June 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Simon has been taking Spanish lessons on and off for the last year, fitting them in between news conferences, candidate debates and fund-raisers.

On Tuesday, Simon's campaign debuted a 30-second television ad that makes use of his new language skills and represents the launch of his television advertising campaign for the Nov. 5 election.

Though the Pacific Palisades businessman lags behind Gov. Gray Davis in fund raising, his campaign advisers deny that they're buying airtime from less-expensive Spanish-language stations to save money.

Instead, Simon said he wants to reach out to California's Latino voters, many of whom felt alienated by Proposition 187, the anti-illegal immigration initiative that was sponsored by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994.

"I'm introducing myself to voters in Spanish in order to highlight the priority I'm placing on the Latino community," Simon said. "I will not take the Latino community for granted as Gray Davis has done these last four years."

The ad, which attacks Davis' record on education, will air statewide for two weeks on affiliates of Univision, Telemundo and Galavision. An identical ad will also run on Spanish-language radio stations across the state.

The spot blames the Democratic governor's "politics" for putting "our children in last place in math, reading and science," and hails Simon as a leader who will "fight for our kids so they have better schools and can fulfill their dreams."Simon himself delivers the last line in unpolished but grammatically correct Spanish: "The future of California depends on our children, yours and mine," he says.

But Davis campaign spokesman Roger Salazar questioned Simon's motivation for releasing the Spanish-language spot now, calling it a "publicity ploy" and a "weak attempt" to gain traction in the Latino community.

He added that Davis has been "a great friend to the Latino community" throughout his career, and that Davis has improved the state's public education system.

"There's no doubt that our education system, as a result of decades of neglect, was in pretty sorry shape when Gov. Davis took office," Salazar said. "But under his leadership, student achievement scores have gone up three years in a row."

Davis began airing his first general-election ads earlier this month. Though none of them were in Spanish, Salazar said the campaign plans to use Spanish-language ads in the future.

One of Davis' current spots attacks Simon's role as a board member of Western Federal, a savings and loan that was seized by federal regulators and was then stabilized at a cost to taxpayers of $92 million.

Sal Russo, Simon's chief strategist, said the campaign will respond directly to Davis' attack ads, but preferred first to come out with Spanish-language spots.

Three state Assembly members joined Russo to unveil the Spanish-language ads in a downtown hotel. However, all were hard-pressed to cite specific examples of Simon education proposals that differ substantially from Davis' or would better address the needs of the Latino community.

"I want to really focus today on our television commercial, rather than the substance of education," Russo said.

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