It used to be that Governors rarely went on TV to sell anything other than their state's beaches and casinos. But a number of state leaders who happen to be up for re-election this year have lent their faces to an array of public-service ads for popular state programs. Critics insist that the spots--funded largely by taxpayers and featured prominently on TV, radio, billboards and other media--amount to thinly disguised campaign ads. A gallery of gubernatorial thespians:
GEORGE PATAKI (R., N.Y.): In the past three years, the media-friendly Governor has starred in some $50 million worth of state-funded ads for museums, baseball teams and health care, the latter airing during such prime-time events as the Oscars. After criticism, he said he always planned to stop six months before the election.
JOHN ROWLAND (R., CONN.) The millions spent on his PSAs helped prompt a state law banning such ads by candidates within five months of an election. His recent ubiquitous mass-transit campaign ("Your Ride's Here") irked critics who recall that in his early years in office Rowland advocated cutbacks in rail services.
BOB TAFT (R., OHIO) He drew fire earlier this year when his office ordered that a slick new tourism TV commercial be re-shot to include the Governor. His office said the $148,000 editing job was necessary because the ad was of "unacceptable" quality and contained an insensitive reference to American Indians.
GRAY DAVIS (D., CALIF.) His office ordered all state agencies to display the Governor's photo on their websites. One click and surfers are directed to Davis' home page, which offers biographies with personal photos, speeches and a link to the home page of his wife. Critics say it's a campaign ploy.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R., ARK.) His frequent appearances in PSAs, notably a health-care ad in which he is surrounded by a throng of grateful children, helped inspire G.O.P. state senator Gunner DeLay to sponsor a so-called Huck TV bill to ban such ads. Although it was defeated last year, DeLay has said he will try again.