Republican Senate candidate Larry E. Haines vows to follow "the high road" in his campaign, shrugging off his brother's public endorsement of Democratic opponent Jeff Griffith as a "desperate" tactic employed by his rival.
"I think Griffith courted him into that," the Republican candidate said of a Monday press conference called by Griffith with Robert K. Haines at his side. "He realizes he has a very tough opponent. He's probably reached the point of desperation and thinks these tactics will help."
But Robert Haines, a Baltimore County teacher, said he appeared voluntarily because he's convinced Griffith is better prepared for public office and more knowledgeable of education issues.
"My basic concern is that I'd hate to end 30-plus years teaching having to worry about the future of public education in the district," said Robert Haines, of Eldersburg.
He said he is concerned that his brother has experience only with Christian schools and "doesn't understand the intricacies of the public school system, raising funds and developing programs."
Larry Haines said he understands education issues "as well as any candidate who hasn't served on the school board."
Robert Haines said he wasn't motivated by sibling rivalry with his brother.
Larry Haines said he respected his brother's position. His four other siblings back his campaign, he said.
Robert Haines' appearance at the conference in Owings Mills, Baltimore County, further stoked the fire of the contentious battle for representation in District 5, which includes most of Carroll and parts of western Baltimore County.
Griffith, while championing his own record of community service and achievements during the last 14 years as a Board of Education member and County Commissioner, aggressively attacked Haines's qualifications and questioned his stances on issues.
"Our whole strategy is to paint a clear, high-contrast picture of the differences between us," said Griffith, calling Haines' conservative views "extremist."
"My opponent hasn't taken positions on issues generally," Griffith said.
The issue presenting perhaps the most glaring contrast between the candidates is abortion.
"The race is coming down to the choice issue," Griffith said.
At his conference, Griffith unveiled a TV commercial he will air on local cable stations identifying himself as the "pro-choice" candidate and Haines as the "opponent who wants government to choose for you."
Referring to Haines's active participation in the fundamentalist Church of the Open Door, Griffith expressed concern that his opponent would carry his religious views into political office.
Haines has downplayed his religious beliefs as a non-factor in the race.
Expounding on the issue at the Monday forum, Haines described himself as "someone who has faith in God, takes his family to church on Sunday, thanks God for food on the table and is not ashamed to pray in public."
Griffith has questioned his opponent about a Catholic Review story in which Haines was quoted as saying he would accept legislation permitting abortions in cases of rape or incest because "we need to take that position to get into office." Griffith contends Haines hasn't made clear what exceptions he would support as an anti-abortion legislator.
Haines refutes Griffith's argument, saying he hasn't changed his position "one iota" since starting his campaign. He also advocates allowing abortions when the life of the mother is at stake. Candidates who support exceptions are more likely to be elected, he explained.
"I think Griffith is trying to twist something," Haines said, calling the strategy "negative innuendo" and a "combative attack on my conservative philosophy."
"I'm going to take the high road. I'm not going to run the campaign he's running."
Griffith advocates abortion rights without restrictions and said, if elected, he would help ensure that a filibuster wouldn't block passage of an abortion rights law in the Senate.
Griffith also contends that Haines isn't prepared for public office and can't match his own record of service.
Griffith, 46, a former college professor, has a doctoral degree in English and a law degree. Haines, 52, was a farmer before starting his own Westminster real estate and appraisal business more than 20 years ago. He has a high school equivalency degree and has completed real estate courses.
"I've built and developed a successful business that provides a service to people. I'm prepared," said Haines.
Haines notes that he has served on a number of government-appointed committees, most of them related to development issues.