In the increasingly personal District 5 state Senate campaign, the latest salvo comes from the brother of Republican candidate Larry Haines endorsing Haines' Democratic opponent.
Robert Haines, a Democrat who is a teacher at Timber Grove Elementary School in Owings Mills, announced his support for J. Jeffrey Griffith yesterday at a news conference called by Griffith.
Robert Haines said he supports Griffith because he favors spending more for education. He said he also disagrees with his brother's anti-abortion position.
"Education is my number one issue in this campaign, and I know it's very high on Jeff's list," said Robert Haines, who met reporters at the Center for Progressive Learning in Owings Mills.
"My support for Mr. Griffith is based strictly on his career in public service," he added. "It has nothing to do with any animosity or any sibling rivalry with my brother."
Robert Haines said he is a Christian fundamentalist like his brother, but different. He suggested that his brother's religious beliefs have narrowed his mind.
He said his brother's interest in education is confined to church schools. "I am a fundamentalist who has a broad view of the world and society, so we differ there," he said.
He added that his brother doesn't understand "the intricacies of public education" and said that his experience in education has been "too narrow."
Robert Haines' comments meshed with a theme of Griffith's campaign talks and literature, which have attempted to brand his Republican opponent as a "religious extremist."
Larry Haines owns a real estate business and is a deacon at the Church of the Open Door, a large independent church in Westminster. Griffith is a Carroll County commissioner who has taught at the Community College of Baltimore and recently earned a law degree. The two are vying for a Senate seat in a district that embraces parts of Carroll County and western Baltimore County.
In an interview after the news conference, Larry Haines agreed ++ with his brother that their political divergence is not an expression of any personal animosity.
Larry Haines, who is 52, a year older than Robert, shrugged off his brother's endorsement of his opponent.
"We haven't been that close over the years, but we haven't been on the outs either," he said. He said he has five brothers and sisters, and "they're all supporting me except him."
Haines said he will produce his own endorsements later this week and that prominent Democrats will be among them.
Larry Haines directed his criticism at Griffith for harping upon religion.
"To me, he's just displaying religious intolerance," Larry Haines said. Independent churches such as the Church of the Open Door in Westminster are among the fastest growing in the country, he said.
"This is the mainstream of the district. This is what people do," he said.
He suggested that Griffith is making religion an issue because he is behind in the race and desperate. "I think he'll offend more people by it," Haines said.
During yesterday's news conference, Griffith renewed his effort to portray his opponent as an extremist on abortion and religion.
Griffith, who is a Catholic, dissents from church teaching on abortion by favoring the current legal availability of abortion.
Haines says his position has always been that abortion should be forbidden, except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother. He says he has no objection to any form of contraception.
During his news conference, Griffith acknowledged a rumor that has long wriggled just below the surface of the campaign. Griffith said he wanted to know why a friend of the Ku Klux Klan was passing out Haines literature at the polls on primary day in September.
Ira Barnes, who has hosted Klan rallies on his land in Gamber, acknowledged that he handed out Haines literature at the Mechanicsville Elementary School in Sykesville on primary day. But Larry Haines said that Barnes acted on his own, not in any official capacity as a poll-watcher.
"It was something he was doing on his own and I was not aware of it," Haines said. He added that many of his campaign workers are new to the county and might not have known of Barnes' reputation when he stopped in at headquarters to ask for literature. Haines said his workers are under instructions not to give any more literature to Barnes if he asks for it.
Barnes said he introduced himself when he picked up the literature. He said he has done the same service for several candidates in the past.
Barnes said he is not a member of the Klan, but acknowledged his sympathy for people who are. "Let's say I'm on speaking terms with them," he said.
Griffith said he doesn't accept Haines' explanations. He said no one would be able to take literature from his headquarters for distribution unless he knew about it.