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Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.

Black and white overlays, deep voices and creepy music have hit this year’s Philadelphia mayoral campaign with the launching of what was the first negative TV ad of the race so far after state Sen. Anthony Williams lodged an ad attacking Jim Kenney’s background on police brutality.

While the ad is significant in that it shows the two frontrunners sparring over an issue that’s captivating cities across the country, what’s more is that it marks a shift in tone. The race had been civil on the TV airwaves until now. And now Kenney is bearing the brunt of the attacks.

Here’s a look at Williams’ ad:

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We don’t yet know how much the candidates have spent in total on TV ad spots across the city (that’ll become more clear in the coming week), but it’s safe to say it won’t be close to the last election season — candidates for statewide office spent $14 million on some 12,000 ads within eight weeks. Of those ad buyers, the top spenders were the Tom Wolf for Governor campaign and two New Jersey congressional campaigns.

And when the ads are airing? Some of the most popular non-cable ad spots (read: expensive) for local political ads are during local newscasts, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Would you like to buy a vowel mayor?

As these attack ads start to surface, we wanted to resurrect some of the most insane ads of all-time across the city and the state.


Republican realtor John Featherman, who ran against Mayor Michael Nutter in 2011, was basically the king of weird attack ads. My personal favorite is this more-than-three-minutes-long spot where a city employee Skypes with Muammar Gaddafi, a hated Libyan dictator who died in October 2011.

Because of course the Democratic machine and corruption in schools is basically the same as an authoritarian and autocratic nation led by an administration often chided for violating basic human rights. Welcome to Gaddafi-delphia. Seriously.

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And if you haven’t had enough of this John Featherman business, you’ll quite enjoy this attack ad that takes place in a literal strip club in which a dude basically just tells the viewer that their tax money is being spent on making sure these dancers don’t get parking tickets.

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But when it comes to ads of epic insanity proportion, we were highly impressed by an ad that came through this year from William Ciancaglini, a candidate for Common Pleas Judge whose ad features Nancy Grace, Journey and raining money.

Worth noting that The Daily News reports Ciancaglini is related to a longtime mobster and also happens to work out of the same offices as Joseph Santaguida, a mob attorney.

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Seen in Pennsylvania as seriously one of the worst ads ever, this attack ad and subsequent terrible response happened during a 2006 campaign for a spot representing Northeast Pennsylvania in U.S. Congress.

The race pitted incumbent Don Sherwood against John Carney for the Democratic seat, and Carney blitzed the airwaves with a Wyoming County man basically accusing Sherwood cheated on his wife and strangled his mistress.

Random Man then proceeds to hold up an Olan Mills-ish portrait of his daughter who is “disgusted” as well. Here’s the ad:

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Even stranger was Sherwood’s response to the attack, in which he basically reads. off. cue. cards. and. says. sorry. for. being. a. lying. cheater. (But he def never strangled that woman!) Carney ended up winning.

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Keeping up with the weird Northeast Pennsylvania ads (come on, guys) this ad for Luzerne County Congressional candidate Gene Stilp from 2013 is pretty insane, and it’s important to note that he actually owned the weird fire suit he’s wearing in this ad.

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Tom Corbett’s (failed) campaign against Tom Wolf for re-election featured two just stupid weird ads. The first was Halloween-themed (timely!) and featured zombies talking about how tax increases are the equivalent of horror movies. Click on the photo to watch the ad.

And how could we EVER forget the College Republicans’ “Say Yes to Tom Corbett” ad spot that reminded us that Gov. Corbett was like a beautiful, modern, hip wedding dress.

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Thank God Pennsylvania has Rick Santorum to provide us with laughs every time he thinks he’d make a great president. The ultra-conservative who represented PA in the U.S. Senate for 12 years came in second to Mitt Romney in 2012, but managed to launch an attack ad against Obama that was… well… creepy and weird.

Titled “Obamaville,” this horror-themed ad spot features a very concerned young couple, a creepy little girl wearing an old dress and an abandoned hospital hallway. DON’T RE-ELECT OBAMA! OR ALL OF OUR LIVES WILL TURN INTO AN M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN MOVIE.

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Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.