SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert's appeal to GOP primary voters in his race against Jonathan Johnson is hitting the airwaves with new TV commercials touting his "steady hand of leadership."

The 30-second spots, which begin airing Wednesday on KSL-TV, feature scenes of the governor touring various businesses in a hard hat or safety goggles as a narrator praises his leadership on economic issues.

Both commercials end with the phrase, "The Steady Hand of Leadership."

Neither commercial refers to his opponent, the chairman of, but one is clearly directed at Johnson's emphasis on tax increases since Herbert took office in 2009 by citing an unspecified "34 times" taxes were actually cut.

The commercials come a week and a half after Johnson beat Herbert, 55 percent to 45 percent, in the delegate vote at the Republican state convention April 23. The race now advances to the June 28 primary.

Johnson was the first to air campaign commercials, going on the radio last November to call for an end to "backroom deals by career politicians" at the Utah Transit Authority.

New commercials for Johnson will be airing on television "fairly soon," his campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said Tuesday. He said there won't be an attempt to redefine Johnson for the broader audience of GOP primary voters.

"You're not going to see any kind of new image. He is what he is. He's a successful businessman running against a career politician who's running for a third term," Hansen said. "That's what it comes down to in this race."

University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said he was surprised Johnson hadn't already started introducing himself to the nearly 600,000 Republicans eligible to vote in the primary.

"What I would have expected was there would have been pretty quick transition," he said, using the support of the majority of the party's 4,000 delegates to start making the case for defeating the sitting governor.

Burbank said that's already difficult to do, since Herbert is well-known and has a high approval rating. Now, he said, the governor's commercials are reinforcing to the larger group of primary voters what they like about his administration.

Herbert's "feel-good message" also emphasizes he's running the state, Burbank said, letting Johnson know that "if you're going to run against an incumbent, you're going to see the power of incumbency."

The timing of Herbert's commercial buy, expected to last at least through next week, also follows criticism of a meeting he held with lobbyists last week at the exclusive Alta Club to ask for their help raising money for his campaign.

That may have sped up the governor's plan to start reaching out to voters via TV, Burbank said. "That's a very real possibility. That's the kind of bad press the governor doesn't want."

Marty Carpenter, Herbert's campaign manager, said he would not "share details of our media strategy, but we have had a strategy in place and we are executing as planned."

Carpenter said the campaign is emphasizing the governor's role in shaping the Utah economy.

"Television ads are part of our overall effort to remind Utahns of Gov. Herbert's great work on the economy," Carpenter said, crediting the governor with helping Utah business "create the nation's strongest economy with 219,000 new jobs."


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