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Dooley Launches First TV Ads, Compares Stenger To Romney

candidate photos

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley has gone up with his first series of TV ads in his campaign to win re-election. And he’s adopting a two-pronged approach.

One ad, which begin airing Thursday, is the classic “feel good’’ spot aimed at making Dooley look good. The second spot is an attack ad intended to raise questions about Democratic rival Steve Stenger's personal finances.

Dooley's campaign also is going live with an attack website: www.StengersSecret.com.

Dooley and Stenger are battling it out in the Aug. 5 Democratic primary — the region's marquee contest.

Dooley’s positive ad features the voice of his adult daughter, Stephanie Dooley, who describes some of her father’s achievements during his 10 years in office. The ad appears to directed particularly to women; it focuses on health care and access to mammograms.

But it’s the attack ad that’s likely to generate talk.  Dooley’s ad casts Stenger as the local version of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Romney attracted headlines over his refusal to make his income tax returns public. Dooley is doubling down on his months-old attack that faults Stenger for failing to release some of his tax returns.

First, some background: In March,Dooley released copies of 10 years of his federal and state tax returns.Stengerhas made public six years of his federal returns, saying he didn’t want to release earlier years because they included the income of his first wife.  

Stenger has yet to release copies of his state tax returns for those six years, but he said in an interview that he plans to do so soon.  Stenger said that his state returns mirror his federal returns.

Ad focuses on Stenger's 2008 financial losses

Dooley’s ad zeroes in Stenger’s 2008 federal tax return, arguably the most complicated of the six years that Stenger has made public. The ad notes that Stenger reported income of $222,000 that year but paid only $21 in taxes. 

But the ad fails to offer additional details – namely that Stenger reported significant deductions and losses that year. As a result, Stenger’s adjusted gross income in 2008 was in the red – a minus $60,259. The federal government gave him a refund of $47,027.  Dooley’s ad does not mention those details.

In an interview last week, Dooley said that Stenger needs to release more details about his taxes, including supplementary federal tax documents to explain his deductions and losses. “I can’t imagine what he’s hiding,” Dooley said, adding “I have nothing to hide.”

In any case, Stenger has contended for months that Dooley’s focus on tax returns was “a red herring’’ to distract voters from controversies plaguing the Dooley administration. Those controversies are highlighted in Stenger’s attack ads, which have been airing for weeks.

Dooley maintains that the tax returns are important and provide transparency regarding the candidates’ backgrounds. As a result, Dooley has declined to agree to any debates with Stenger until the latter releases more tax returns.

Here's Dooley's positive ad:

And here's Dooley's attack ad against Stenger:

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.