Dominick Calsolaro

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Lights, camera, action, it's Jennings

Published on 9/18/2009 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer

With all the seriousness surrounding this week's Albany Democratic mayoral primary, we thought it prudent to seek some levity and revisit what we here at Inside Politics have taken to calling the "juice box moment."

That's the point in one of Mayor Jerry Jennings' television campaign commercials when he tells a gaggle of school children on a bus about tougher education standards and increased job training on his watch.

Clad in his usual dark suit, Jennings punctuates the brief interlude before his rapt grade-school audience with a hearty sip from a Capri Sun juice box.

The ad also features the four-term incumbent peering over a cubicle, leaning against a fridge in an office break room, donning goggles in a science lab and handing coffee to a pair of cops walking the beat -- all the while detailing how he's helped make Albany "one of America's best cities."

The spot (which is posted on our Local Politics blog) opens with a shot of the mayor sitting on a park bench next to an older woman reading the newspaper.

"Mayor Jennings?" exclaims the woman, familiar to anyone whose spent time around City Hall. She's Thelma Dooley, longtime secretary to Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd.

Dooley still works part time in Jennings' office (though, his campaign dutifully notes, she wasn't on the clock when the ad was shot).

Jennings' comic turn rankled some of his opponents because in it the mayor cites the city's Gun Violence Task Force as a success -- and naturally doesn't mention he opposed it when Councilman Dominick Calsolaro first pitched the idea.

But even some Jennings critics were forced to acknowledge a grudging admiration for the humor and slick production, which aimed to lay bare Jennings' goofier side.

So it seems the mayor's campaign got its money's worth. It paid at least $86,416 to Murphy Putnam Media -- the Washington, D.C.-area, firm that produced President Barack Obama's 30-minute prime time ad during the presidential election as well as spots for Democratic senators, governors and others.

Murphy Putnam also produced the mayor's ads in the 1997 primary against Assemblyman Jack McEneny. They did two for him this year, in a campaign where Jennings outspent Councilman Corey Ellis 10-to-1, and no Ellis ads ran on TV or radio.

The bus appears to have been donated by Durham School Services, a $150 in-kind donated listed in the mayor's most recent campaign finance disclosure filings.