UPPER DARBY — Republican state Rep. Jamie Santora, R-163 of Upper Darby, has pulled negative commercials and campaign material against his Democratic opponent Mike Zabel in the final week of campaigning, a time when opponents usually get their final jabs in at each other before voters get to the polling places.
Santora announced late Tuesday that he would be replacing any pending advertisements and publications that would run up to Election Day on Nov. 6 with content that would be positive about his work within his district and his career in the state House as he runs for a third term.
“With everything that’s been happening in the last couple of weeks, and what really put it in for me, was the shooting in Pittsburgh,” said Santora on Thursday. “There was too much negativity everywhere and I wanted to go positive.”
Santora’s campaign spokesman Pete Peterson said a $100,000 commercial that was to run through Election Day was pulled and will be replaced with “strictly positive ads about his accomplishments." Peterson said $10,000 in digital ads that were a mix of positive and negative messaging have now all been switched to positive messages.
Some of these campaign messages are being produced by the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
The decision to move in a more positive direction came after 11 people were shot and killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, following other notable incidents of domestic terror days before with pipe bombs being mailed to prominent Democrats and two black people in Kentucky being shot by a white man after he failed to gain entry to a predominantly black church to potentially shoot any congregants.
Santora said moving in a positive direction during the home stretch of his re-election campaign was a “small gesture” that he made after speaking with his wife, Amy, and getting feedback from constituents about the shift in campaign strategy.
Zabel, who is mounting his first campaign for Santora’s seat, said it was “too little, too late” to be doing such a move after months of negative messages the incumbent Republican and his supporters have put out.
“It was an election stunt than a genuine effort,” said Zabel on Thursday about the attacks against him and the party. “For someone who has been running a pretty relentless campaign … this was not an effort of bi-partisanship or reconciliation. I laughed a little bit because it’s a ploy.”
“It’s pretty disingenuous to run a negative campaign for months and then with five days left to go positive,” Zabel added.
Santora rebutted Zabel’s claims that this was a disingenuous move.
“That’s a shame that he feels that way,” he said. “If you talk to my friends and people who know me, they’ll tell you that I’m genuine. I am doing it for the right reasons.”
What still gets published by political action committees up to Election Day is out of the candidates’ hands.
The Santora camp said Zabel has been more negative with his campaign messages, claiming eight negative mailers and a “frequency of negative television ads” coming from Zabel and his supporters estimated at over $500,000.
Zabel said he has approved eight mailers sent on his behalf by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, but that spending all of that money from his own campaign is not possible.
“I’ve spent over $125,000 total in the last year and that’s the amount we’ve raised,” he said. “I haven’t had $500,000 in my campaign funds ever. I suspect he’s talking about those PACs … but that’s not me spending that.”
Santora said of 20 mailers send out on his behalf only four have been negative, which is half as many as Zabel has sent out. Two more negative mailers were expected out of Santora’s camp this week, but they were canceled in lieu of one positive mailer.
The GOP state rep said his bringing in a surge of positivity into the campaign is a genuine move that reflects who he has been as a state representative as a cheerleader for the area.
“I believe it’s the right thing to do. If it hurts me, it hurts me, but I’ll be able to sleep better at night,” Santora said. “I’m looking forward to Election Day. We put our best foot forward and there’s more to do (in Harrisburg) that I want to be a part of.”