State Representative Carl M. Sciortino Jr., a self-declared Massachusetts liberal, and his father, an avowed Tea Party Republican, have been arguing about politics for decades.
This week, the younger Sciortino, one of seven Democrats vying to succeed Edward J. Markey in the US House of Representatives, turned those years of bickering with his 73-year-old father into a television spot that has earned him a precious commodity in his low-key special election race: buzz.
The ad, which emphasizes Sciortino’s liberal views, in a cheeky back-and-forth with his father, posted at 8 a.m. Tuesday and had more than 150,000 views on YouTube by Wednesday evening.
Matt Larson, Sciortino’s campaign manager, said the Medford Democrat had pulled in hundreds of donations totaling more than $35,000 since the ad went online Tuesday. It has been written up by publications from the Huffington Post to Gawker. And despite being a middle-of-the-pack candidate in a little-watched race, the candidate said he was set to make appearances about the ad on national television in coming days.
From the get-go, the ad seemed intended to raise Sciortino’s profile, not just in the Fifth Congressional District, but well beyond it.
“Dad’s in the Tea Party.’ —Carl Sciortino Jr., US House candidate
“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 . . . 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 a multicandidate field, you are looking for a hook, you are looking for a gimmick, you are looking for something to make you stand out,” Wilson said.
So what was the genesis of the family-focused spot that became 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 — [it] 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 father, 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 in toward the viewer.
“Dad’s in the Tea Party,” Sciortino says, by way of explanation.
“Damn right,” the father affirms.
The banter continues as the duo outline the candidate’s experience on Beacon Hill and his plans for Capitol Hill.
In an interview, the elder Sciortino, a Richmond resident, was similarly frank. He said 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 viewpoints.”
But despite his differences, he agreed to go along with the ad because he loves his son, he explained.
It’s not clear how much money it will generate for the campaign in the coming days.
So far, the spot does not appear to be in heavy rotation. But Larson, Sciortino’s campaign manager, said he plans to spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” — which would mean a stronger TV presence in the coming weeks — airing the ad through the special primary election on Oct. 15.
The other Democrats running in the largely 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.
Analysts see Sciortino, whose proven electoral base of support as a state representative is relatively small, as facing a steeper climb in the primary than the state senators or Koutoujian.
There are also three Republicans running in the mostly suburban district that stretches from Winthrop to Woburn to Southborough to Holliston: actuary Tom Tierney of Framingham; Harvard nanophysics researcher Mike Stopa of Holliston; and businessman and lawyer Frank J. Addivinola Jr. of Boston.