In a surprise move, DFL U.S. Senate candidate Mike Ciresi beat rival Al Franken to the video punch, with a pair of ads that will air statewide starting today.

Franken's campaign has said it plans to launch ads later this month. Today the campaign is expected to announce that former DFL governor Wendell Anderson is endorsing Franken.

Although Franken and Ciresi are locked in a months-long fight for the endorsement that won't culminate until June, Ciresi is virtually ignoring his rival in this first round of ads, instead taking a swipe at Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

Ciresi links Coleman, who is seeking a second term, to President Bush, saying that "George Bush and Norm Coleman have let special interests run things in Washington too long."

Coleman, a one-time Democrat, aligned himself closely with Bush but has created some distance from the unpopular president in recent months. In what is expected to be a closely watched, high-spending race, Coleman and Republicans have focused most of their attention on Franken, a comedian and political satirist whose celebrity and fundraising ability have garnered national media attention.

Cullen Sheehan, Coleman campaign manager, called Ciresi's ads "not unexpected. When you don't have a positive vision for the future, or any experience in bringing people to get things done and to change America for the better, you go on the attack,'' Sheehan said.

Ciresi, one of the nation's top trial lawyers, uses the ads to draw attention to his own accomplishments, saying that "I've spent my life fighting powerful interests, taking on big tobacco, chemical and drug companies and winning."

A second ad, titled "Change," reminds viewers of Ciresi's lead role in the state's landmark tobacco litigation and in the lawsuit that took on manufacturers of the Dalkon shield contraceptive device in the late 1980s.

In a message that echoes the middle-class emphasis of his 2000 run, Ciresi closes the first ad by saying that "it's time to put special interests in the bullseye and give middle-class families a fair chance again."

Ciresi said the two ads will be joined by a third later this month and will air until Minnesota holds its precinct caucuses on Feb. 5.

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288