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Well, that was fun.

Wednesday morning I was checking the daily news (Twitter) when I saw my brother-in-law, Matt Ferraguto, was one of the first to share the now famous ‘Drunk Town’ ad from the back of a section of some subscribers’ News & Observer. The ad named Mary-Ann Baldwin, Ashton Mae Smith and Mike (née Matt) Tomasulo. Baldwin and Tomasulo are running in the at large race against Russ Stephenson and Craig Ralph. Smith is running in District D against Kay Crowder. But more importantly, the ad was amazing.

Shrewd questions arose from the growing audience.

More followed. What downtown street was this taken on? Who is Mike Tomasulo? Who paid for this? And, to quote New Raleigh, “What is this garbage”

Some answers were quickly offered by fellow tweeters. The ad was paid for by a PAC, Wake Citizens for Good Government. No doubt local government writers, seeing either the ad itself or the Twitter flurry, were scrambling to talk to candidates or someone representing the PAC.

But online, we still had jokes. Like advice for the model (model?) in the photo on striking more realistic puking poses.

Many, like I (despite recent grumblings from my family) began embracing the ‘Drunk Town’ moniker.

And, of course, the image got doctored up a bit.

"It's 2am in downtown Raleigh....and this guy just heard the weekend weather report"

“It’s 2am in downtown Raleigh….and this guy just heard the weekend weather report”

And the word was still spreading. I showed the ad to my friend Bill LuMaye while he was on the air for his morning radio show on WPTF, figuring he might want to make it a topic, which of course he did. In the course of fetching him a newspaper, I also learned that there are radio ads running with the same tone, presumably as part of the same campaign. The familiar buzz (or is it anti-buzz?) words–namely “vomit” and “urine”–that have been part of the from the no-fun crowd’s chorus and are implied in “Drunk Town” get trotted out again.

By late morning, Indy Week had done the best work on getting to the bottom of the ad. They also attempted to clarify the money flow involved, which gets extra tricky in a local, nonpartisan race where most candidates and voters have a party affiliation, but often times singular issues become the focus.

The man they fingered as chiefly responsible for the ad is Dean Debnam. I don’t know him, but I went to school with his kids. They were good people, and from what I can gather, Debnam seems like a decent enough guy. He’s also the head of Public Policy Polling, which offers “High Accurate Polling Across The Country.” They recently made headlines for tracking the progress of Deez Nutz as a presidential candidate late in the summer.

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how did they know Deez Nuts is a he?

So, if you’re keeping score at home, the same guy who is paying to #KeepRaleighBoring is also overseeing the introduction of Deez Nuts jokes into presidential politics. He’s also about to move downtown, so that may explain why he’s trying to crank  down the volume on Fayetteville Street. I don’t agree with him, but if you’ve got the money to pay for ads to influence elections resulting in changes that can literally help you sleep better at night, go for it.

His statement on the matter came out in a release from a lawyer.

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You’ll notice it’s a “public education campaign.” One can only hope the comedic value of future propaganda can clear the high bar that Drunk Town has set.

Later in the evening the News & Observer put out what they called a fact-checking of the ad with some of the information Indy had reported earlier in the day and some additional input from candidates and others around Raleigh, again confirming the sometimes odd lines that the nightlife issue has drawn in this election.

How will it turn out? Who knows. At the end of the day some important questions remained.

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