They've started — those sound bite television political ads. They're irritating, intrusive, expensive and unfortunately necessary. You don't get elected without them.

Former Los Angeles Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan was the first to the tube with his commercials. Riordan is supposedly the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to face Gov. Gray Davis.

Some political pundits have written off Fresnan and California Secretary of State Bill Jones and wealthy Southern California businessman Bill Simon, the other two Republican challengers. However, four out of 10 likely voters have not decided who they'll support, according to a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Jones is unquestionably the most qualified man in the race. He has had a successful business career and is proven political leader, problem solver and consensus builder who is better acquainted with California and its issues than certainly any of others in the Republican race and the current governor for that matter. Davis continually puts his political future ahead of the state's needs and more than once lately has embarrassed himself publicly with his self-absorption.

Jones continues to scramble to raise money to go head-to-head with the wealthy Riordan in the tube campaign. There's no question Jones will be on television due to some recent heady funding raising efforts. Being the second or third entrant to jump onto TV may be to his advantage.

Jones addressing issue with his sincerity and clear leadership ability could be a sharp contrast to Riordan.

Riordan's electronic efforts are slick. They should be because he has Hollywood behind him. However, the message is transparent in what it does not say. People are already tired of the Riordan banality. At least I am. (OK, I'm not objective.) He criticizes others and praises himself without really addressing issues that are critical to the state's future.

One of those issues is water. It is the most critical issue facing the state and having a former mayor of Los Angeles whose political career has been wholly centered in Southern California dealing with it is a frightening thought.

Solutions to the water crisis will require bringing all parties to the table and acknowledging all stakeholders' interests. With Riordan at the helm of that process will only result in a Southern California power play for water.

We've had that in the past. With two-thirds of the state's population living south of the Tehachapi's, water agencies there have tried to muscle water from the north for use in the south. However, they have been beaten back by strong bipartisan leaders like Jones who recognizes every water stakeholder.

Today most of the water powers in the South recognize that they can get the water they need through compromise and win-win solutions. Putting Riordan back in charge would be a step backwards in finding acceptable solutions to the water crisis. That is just one reason why I shudder when I see the Riordan ads on television.

It is why it is imperative Jones gets the support he need to defeat Riordan.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com