Rep. Roy P. Dyson, D-1st, today launched his toughest and most personal attack ever against Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest, accusing him in a commercial of "getting caught taking money out of his campaign."
The commercial, which aired today on at least one Baltimore radio station, also attacked Gilchrest's character, suggesting he is "a little bit crazy."
Gilchrest's press secretary, Tony Caligiuri, expressed shock and accused Dyson of lying to get re-elected.
"Everyone told us throughout the campaign Dyson would get nasty in the end," he said. "No one thought he'd get that nasty.
"They're not based on fact," Caligiuri said of the statements in the commercial. "They're intentionally misleading.
"I think it's a sad statement about Dyson's character."
Neither Dyson nor his campaign manager, Chris Robinson, could be reached for comment on the source of the allegation that Gilchrest "got caught" using campaign money for personal purposes.
Gilchrest's most recent campaign finance report discloses that in the last several weeks of the campaign he is drawing a salary of $250 a week.
Gilchrest is on a leave of absence from his teaching job at Kent County High School. Caligiuri said Gilchrest has exhausted his savings and that the salary is intended mainly to cover campaign-related expenses for which he has not been receiving reimbursement, such as food and gasoline.
The Federal Election Commission said the law does not prohibit a candidate from drawing a salary.
It is not known how often or on which stations Dyson intends to air the commercial before the election Tuesday. Caligiuri said Gilchrest is opposed to negative advertising and has no plans to air a rebuttal commercial.
Dyson's commercial continues a trend in the final days of the campaign in which Dyson is attempting to damage Gilchrest with published statements purportedly made by, or about, Gilchrest. In each case, Gilchrest campaign aides say either he did not make the statement or that Dyson distorted its meaning.
For example, Dyson charges that Gilchrest seeks to "freeze Social Security as a way to balance the federal budget," an allegation he renews in today's commercial.
However, Dyson's campaign manager has been unable to provide the newspaper article in which he said Gilchrest stated this position. Robinson said the article ran in the Calvert County Recorder, but the newspaper's editor said this week that he couldn't recall or find such an article.
Gilchrest said this about Social Security cost-of-living increases in a statement he sent to The Evening Sun and The Sun Aug. 4 in response to a questionnaire:
"Social Security should not be exploited to cover up the enormity of the budget deficit problem. The entire program should be independent of the budget to allow any surplus to be invested in order to anticipate possible shortfalls in the future" in the Social Security fund.
Gilchrest did support a congressional deficit-cutting proposal that would have increased the charges that Medicare beneficiaries pay. The House killed the proposal, with Dyson voting against it.
Dyson also has asserted that Gilchrest is linked to an independent Republican group, the Free State Republican Fund, which has sponsored two commercials attacking Dyson.
But Gilchrest and state Republican Party officials strongly disavow any connection with the group or its commercials. Dyson has not provided any evidence establishing such a connection.
Dyson has tried to turn the Fund's commercials to his advantage, condemning in a television commercial of his own the Republicans' "negative campaign."
"You know, when you strike below the belt, or you say ugly, mean, crushing things, that to me is immaturity," a Dyson supporter says in the television commercial.
But with Dyson's commercial today, he has exposed himself to the same allegation of negative advertising. That is what Gilchrest's aides say Dyson is doing.
Dyson's voice introduces the new commercial as being a product of his campaign.
A narrator then states the allegations regarding Social Security and "taking money" out of the campaign. The narrator asserts that Gilchrest is not the person he appears to be, but in the words of a fellow Republican is a "calculating politician."
The narrator also claims that Gilchrest has described "himself as a little bit crazy" and says he is out of work.
The narrator says it is "wrong to take money" out of the campaign and, referring to what is known about Gilchrest, concludes: "What is really scary is what we don't know."