quacky race

Feathers have been flying over an Ohio political campaign that features a talking duck. But a federal court has rejected complaints from Aflac insurance that the duck in gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan’s Internet-only ads too closely resembles its mascot.

During a hearing last week, U.S. District Judge Kathleen O’Malley refused to grant a temporary restraining order that would block the ads, saying they represent free speech that is protected under the First Amendment. The company is still seeking a permanent injunction to block the ads, and another hearing is scheduled for Oct. 10.

Hagan, a Democrat, faces incumbent Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, in the Nov. 5 election.

The three ads, each of which is about three minutes long, can only be seen at the Web site www.taftquack.com. In the ads, a duck with Taft’s face shouts, “Taftquack,” in response to points raised in Taft’s actual campaign commercials, said Hagan campaign consultant Jerry Austin of Gerald J. Austin & Associates, Columbus, Ohio.

Austin came up with the idea for the duck and developed the concept with the assistance of artist Julie Cromwell from Cromwell & Co. and CT Productions, both in Akron, Ohio. Aflac’s advertising is created by Kaplan Thaler Group in New York.