Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken has someone taking serious shots at him on network and cable TV and the Web -- and it's not Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

DFLer Priscilla Lord Faris, a last-minute, little-known primary challenger, has come out with a biting ad that aims at Franken's softest spots -- his sometimes dicey humor and past business tax troubles -- in a harder fashion than has his GOP opponent.

In the low-budget ad, which features only her, Lord Faris tells viewers that while she once thought Franken could defeat Coleman, "his record of pornography and degradation of women and minorities and questionable financial transactions will be the source of blistering ads for the Republican attack machine."

Lord Faris is referring to a piece that Franken wrote for Playboy in 2000 and bits of humor regarding women and minorities that he's told or written over the years.

Franken spokesman Andy Barr declined to comment Wednesday on the specifics of the ad or Lord Faris' candidacy, saying, "We're thoroughly focused on Norm Coleman."

DFL Party co-chair Donna Cassut said the party "has endorsed Al Franken, and Democrats across Minnesota are united in rallying around Al for our fight for change."

Franken has tried to put the controversies behind him, even publicly apologizing to delegates at the DFL state convention for material they may have found inappropriate.

Republicans have stayed on the attack. Lord Faris entered the race late but has pulled fewer punches than the GOP in her assault on her party's endorsee. The tactic has gotten notice among DFLers.

"This is outside the normal dialogue by which we conduct campaigns in Minnesota," said Blois Olson, a Democratic media consultant not connected to any of the campaigns. "This is the kind of ad you would expect a 527 [group] or the Republican Party to run. ... There's a rebellious aspect that seems designed to make sure he's even more battered and bruised going into the general election."

Lord Faris started with a biographical ad over the weekend before adding the attack ad, which will air in less expensive time slots across the state. "We're not buying prime time," said Bob Mattson, a former state auditor and treasurer who is helping coordinate her campaign. "But people will see it."

Lord Faris' campaign, he said, isn't a vanity run or closet attempt by disgruntled DFlers to soften up Franken for Coleman. "I want Democrats to keep this seat," he said. "I believe this could be the 60th seat [the number needed to block a filibuster]."

"It's not Al's ideas that are the problem," Mattson said. "It's his baggage."

Lord Faris, the daughter of former U.S. District Judge Miles Lord, has kept an active schedule in recent days. She has hit the road to talk to whatever media outlet will interview her, touting her past as a lawyer, teacher, volunteer and mother, each time lobbing a few verbal grenades at Franken.

Mike Hatch, former attorney general and a veteran of tough races, said he's puzzled by her candidacy. "She's a pleasant enough person, well known in lawyer circles," he said. "I hope Al Franken wins. But the Lord and Mattson families have a history of going for the long ball, and sometimes they get it."

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288