State Representative Carl M. Sciortino, Jr., a self-declared “Massachusetts liberal” and his father, a Tea Party Republican, have been arguing about politics for decades.
This week, Sciortino, one of seven Democratic candidates vying to succeed Edward J. Markey in the US House of Representatives, managed to turn years of bickering with his 73-year-old father into a television spot that has earned him a precious commodity in a low-key special election race: buzz.
The ad, which emphasizes Sciortino’s liberal credentials in the cheeky back-and-forth with his dad, posted at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and had more than 134,000 views on YouTube by Wednesday afternoon.
Matt Larson, Sciortino’s campaign manager, said the Medford Democrat had pulled in hundreds of donations totaling more than $35,000 in since the ad went online Tuesday. It’s been written up by national publications from the Huffington Post to Gawker. And Sciortino said he was set to make appearances about the ad on national television in the coming days.
From get-go, the ad seemed intended to raise Sciortino’s profile, not just in the Fifth Congressional District, but well beyond it.
“It will and has gotten him attention and donations here and nationally,” said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh. “But one ad even this good is not enough to get him a congressional seat. It takes more than that.”
“It’s a clever way of being distinctive,” said Democratic media strategist Steve Murphy, who is not involved in the race. “And he’s both ideological and human at the same time, which is damn near impossible.”
Republican media consultant Rick Wilson said it could work to separate Sciortino in the minds of voters from the other candidates.
“If you’re in multi-candidate field, you are looking for a hook, you are looking for gimmick, you are looking for something to make you stand out,” Wilson said.
So how did a family-focused spot in a small local race become a national talker in under a day?
Sciortino Jr. said in an interview that on the campaign trail, he often speaks about his father, a single dad who raised Carl, now 35, and his brother. Father and son are close, but for years they have not seen eye to eye on politics.
“We realized with my dad and I disagreeing on almost everything politically — he is in the Tea Party and he and I banter and bicker and fight all the time — would be a good way to tell the story of my values,” he said. “And the fact that my father and I still love each other and can have a conversation, break bread, and make peace.”
The ad begins in a living room where Sciortino, who is openly gay, looks earnestly at the camera. “I’ll never forget that conversation with my dad,” he says. “where I had to come out and tell him —”
The camera cuts to Sciortino’s dad, relaxed in an overstuffed chair.
“Wait for this,” father says.
Cut to his son.
“That I was a — Massachusetts liberal.”
“And he’s proud of it!” the senior Sciortino says, leaning towards the viewer.
“Dad’s in the Tea Party,” Sciortino says, by way of explanation.
The witty banter continues as the duo outline the candidate’s experience on Beacon Hill and his plans for Capitol Hill.
In a interview, the elder Sciortino, 73 and Richmond resident, was similarly frank. He is indeed affiliated with the Tea Party and disagrees with his son on just about every political issue.
“My viewpoints are a lot different than his,” he said. “I’m an old Republican, more conservative in my view points.”
But despite his differences, he said he agreed to go along with the ad because he loves his son.
Sciortino recalled his father putting his arm around him afterward and telling him: “You know I’m serious when I tell you I think you’re on the wrong track with your values.”
It’s not clear how much money the ad will generate for the campaign in the coming days.
So far, the ad has not been in heavy rotation, according to people working at two rival Democratic campaigns. But Larson, Sciortino’s campaign manager, said he plans to spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” — which would mean a heavier TV presence in the coming weeks — airing the ad through the special primary election on Oct. 15.
The other Democrats running in special primary election in the heavily Democratic District are: state Senators Katherine Clark of Melrose, Karen Spilka of Ashland and Will Brownsberger of Belmont; Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian of Waltham; Martin Long, an Arlington author; and Stoneham resident Paul John Maisano, who works in the construction industry.
There are three Republicans running for their party’s nomination: actuary Tom Tierney of Framingham; Harvard nanophysics researcher Mike Stopa of Holliston; and businessman and lawyer Frank J. Addivinola Jr. of Boston.
The special general election is set for Dec. 10.