Mayoral candidate Lisa Howze gains momentum after $50,000 Super Bowl ad

lisa howze press picWhen state Rep. Lisa Howze announced her candidacy for Detroit mayor a year ago, political observers brushed her off as a second-tier contender.

They said the first-term legislator couldn’t raise the money and didn’t have the name recognition to compete with the likes of Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Mike Duggan, both of whom are likely to announce their official candidacy soon.

Then she announced last week that she’s running a Super Bowl ad. The response from political observers: You’ve gotta be kidding me. How can she afford it? Why splurge on a 30-second TV spot?  

Today, Howze revealed the time slot cost a whopping $50,000 – among the most expensive single advertisement for a mayoral candidate in Detroit history.

In other words, her campaign spent $50,000 on a single 30-second ad six months before the August primary election.

Crazy, right?

“It was brilliant,” a former aide of Mayor Dave Bing told me. “She has cemented her name in a race that, quite frankly, doesn’t have a solid candidate without skeletons in the closet.”

Consider this: The ad reached an estimated 400,000 people – or more than half of the city’s population. But the value went well beyond a 30-second TV clip: Howze reminded the media that the mayoral race is about more than Duggan and Napoleon, both of whom have generated a disproportionate amount of attention. She showed that she can raise money with the big boys.

Facebook and Twitter were abuzz about Howze’s ad, before and after it ran. Newspapers, radio and TV news picked up the story.

Today, she spent about two hours on the popular Angelo Henderson show on NewsTalk 1200, revealing her plan to reduce crime and the budget deficit.

“I pride myself in being financially savvy; recognizing there is a difference between cost and value,” Howze said of the ad. “The media exposure gained by our ad, social media buzz created and the ability to have reached millions of people with a positive message that Detroit’s future is priceless. The Super Bowl is the only program during the whole year where people actually watch for the commercials. The response to the ad and the support for me running for mayor has been huge since I announced over a year ago.”

With the recent exposure, Howze has been able to show off her impressive campaign team – former Detroit Police Chief James Barren as senior advisor on crime and law enforcement; retired Deputy Fire Chief Reginald Amos, senior advisor on fire and EMS; and Campaign Director Brandon Jessup, who served as the African-American Vote Outreach Director for Michigan in the Obama for America Campaign.

Howze also used the exposure to unveil plans to improve the fire and police departments, reduce the city’s staggering budget deficit and eliminate the need for an emergency manager.

A certified public accountant, Howze said her entrepreneurial spirit took root at a young age.

“In high school at Cass Technical High School, I saved more than $4,000 in three years selling candy, starting with a $13 investment in a box of M&M candies. As mayor, I want to get the most out of every dollar in the city of Detroit. In a Howze administration, not one federal dollar will be returned unspent.”

So where’d the money come from?

“I was not bought and I definitely wasn’t paid for,” Howze declared today, saying most of the money came from small donors during a grassroots campaign. “There are no big-name corporations.”

Candidates are required to declare their donations before the August primary.

Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at [email protected]

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.    

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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