Background and boxing figure in new ads from McKee, Kalus

New political ads hit the airwaves in the Rhode Island governor’s race Thursday.
One from Democrat incumbent Dan McKee has various people questioning where Republican challenger Ashley Kalus is from, with people on screen saying:

“Has she ever had a hot wiener or a quahog?”

“Does she know to stop at the sign of the big lemon?”

“No, Ashley, you don’t dip your pizza strips in coffee milk.”

“Now she wants to be our governor?”

“No way.”

“You’re not from around here, are you?”

Kalus told reporters Thursday that McKee’s ad “smacks of nativism” and called on McKee to take it down.

She said the ad is un-American, in a land of immigrants.

Kalus did not emigrate from another country. She moved to Rhode Island last year from having been in Illinois and Florida.

NBC 10 News asked Valerie Endress, a Rhode Island College professor who teaches political communication, to analyze the ads in the race.

On the new McKee ad, Endress said she believes “it reinforces the notion that McKee understands his constituents, and they understand him. It does have a ‘bandwagon’ component to it. If these Rhode Islanders are questioning the legitimacy and qualifications of the opponent, shouldn’t you also?”

Meanwhile, Kalus, who has a boxing background, put the gloves back on in a new ad that launched Thursday.

While Kalus is in the ring, her son does the talking.

“If Dan McKee and Joe Biden think their attacks are going to work on my mom, c’mon, that’s just as bad as their other plans. Of course they want to distract you from all their screw ups.”

Endress says, “She’s fighting her opponent, but hoping, too, that her audience will understand that she will also ‘fight’ for Rhode Island.”

Kalus has thrown proverbial punches at McKee in previous ads.

Her second ad since the start of the general election campaign points out proposed cabinet pay raises, taxpayer funded development deals, and the investigation into the ILO school contract.

“Dan, time to lawyer up,” the narrator says.

“It’s smart for her to come out punching this early in the campaign,” Endress said.

“She did it very effectively in the way we call a shotgun blast, where she hits point after point after point in rapid succession,” Endress said of that Kalus ad.

McKee’s first ad of the general election highlighted what he’s done to protect abortion rights, while the narrator concludes, “Anti-choice Ashley Kalus is out of touch with Rhode Island values.”

“I think it is going to be effective,” Endress says of the ad on abortion.

The ad, she says, “Is speaking to 51% of the population in Rhode Island and it’s an important one.”

Kalus has aired two commercials focused on inflation and the cost of living.

“The McKee-Biden agenda is failing us,” Kalus says in one of them.

In that ad, she is with her kids in the kitchen.

“As a mom of three boys, I know how challenging it is,” Kalus says.

“It’s a good strategy. It’s a good ad,” Endress said.

“That famous statement about, ‘It’s about the economy, stupid.’ The problem that I have with that ad is that she’s not providing solutions,” Endress says.

Endress is waiting for that from McKee’s ads, too.

“I think in some ways, McKee’s got to be able to expand his approach and talk about the economic issues,” she says.

Another McKee ad that launched this week sees the return of his mom, who was a fixture in primary commercials.

Endress thinks McKee’s mom, Willa, has been the most memorable part of this campaign ad season.

“The public likes that. Those kinds of positive ads can help to set an image,” Endress said.