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Find KUER's reporting on the races, candidates and more for Utah’s 2018 midterm elections. Click here for our graphics of the U.S. Senate race, 4 Congressional races and Utah ballot initiatives.

TV Ads Debut Early In Love-McAdams Race, With One Surprising Cameo

split screen of Love and McAdam's campaign commercials.

Joshua Holt, the Utah man recently freed from a Venezuelan prison, is making his debut in a campaign commercial for Republican Rep. Mia Love.

Both Love and her Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, launched their first TV commercials this month for the high stakes race in Utah's 4th Congressional District.

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said the fact that both candidates are launching TV ads before Labor Day, when campaigns normally kick into high gear, shows how competitive the race is.

"This is a little bit earlier than that [Labor Day]," said Perry. "But the reality is it's happening because both these candidates want to make sure that they define themselves before their opponent does."

Love's 60-second ad features Joshua Holt and his mother Laurie Holt, who lobbied for his release from Venezuelan custody for two years.

"I went to Venezuela to marry my wife, Tammy, and that's when we were held hostage by the government of Venezuela," says Josh Holt in the ad.

Laurie Holt describes her son's ordeal and Congresswoman Love's supportive role in helping secure his release.

"Mia Love said, 'I will not let you down, and I'm here with you as a mother,'" says Laurie Holt, later adding, "Mia is definitely one who gets results."

Holt and his wife were freed after negotiations between Venezuelan officials and senior members of Congress, including Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who flew to Caracas to escort Holt back to the U.S.

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Love is trying to show she can be effective.

"Candidates want endorsements from people that voters will recognize that have something positive to say," said Perry. "Many people in Utah understand the story of Josh Holt and are happy to have him back."

Love's challenger, Salt Lake County Ben McAdams, launched a light-hearted 30-second television ad last week featuring his four children and wife, Julie.

"As mayor, dad brings people together," says McAdams' daughter, Kate.

"Helps the homeless; builds parks and trails," two other children chime in.

Perry said McAdams' ad is aimed more toward showing Utah voters he shares their values.

"He wants to demonstrate that he can be appealing no matter what your politics are," said Perry.

Neither campaign disclosed the cost of airtime purchased in this initial buy.

Perry said if the two candidates remain polling in a dead heat, Utahns can expect to see ads take a sharper tone heading into November.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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