By Alex Roarty

Anthony Williams’ campaign is hoping the third time is a charm when it comes to criticizing Dan Onorato.

The state senator from Philadelphia late this week began airing his third TV ad critical of his Democratic gubernatorial foe, highlighting the Allegheny County executive’s support for a drink tax and a local tunnel project it called a “boondoggle.” It also accused Onorato of “pay-to-play” politics.

Many of the criticisms, even parts of the same footage, have appeared in previous Williams’ spots critical of the Democratic front-runner. The first ad, which began playing in early May, went after his economic record in the state’s second largest count. The second, which appears to have aired primarily if not exclusively in the southeast, said Onorato opposed abortion-rights and gun-control measures.

The 30-second spot running now says Onorato’s drink tax, which the candidate has said was necessary to stave off a spike in property taxes, was the largest in the county’s history. It also criticized him for support of a North Shore Connector, which seeks to connect downtown Pittsburgh to areas on the city’s north shore. A narrator called the project an “unfinished, half-billion dollar boondoggle.”

“Voters got higher taxes and the useless ONorato tunnel to nowhere,” the narrator said.

The final part of the ad accuses Onorato of giving tens of millions of dollars in contracts to companies that contributed to his campaigns. Williams has made so-called “pay-to-play” an issue before, suggesting during at least one debate that all of the candidates should pledge not to give any state contracts to campaign contributors.

“And now Onorato wants us to promote him … to governor?” the narrator asks, voice in disbelief.

Williams has tried, unsuccessfully thus far, to make a dent in Onorato’s lead in the four-man Democratic primary, which includes Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel and Auditor General Jack Wagner. The Allegheny County executive, who has spent millions almost entirely positive ads of himself, has maintained a huge edge in the polls.

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