Here's Mud in Your Eye -- and on Your Election

September 11, 1994|By BARRY RASCOVAR

The dark side of politics has been on display in this summer's primary election campaign. Overt and covert racism; fear-mongering; win-at-all-costs campaigns; down-and-dirty advertising. It's a sad commentary on the state of politicking.

There seems to be a notion afoot that an ancient football admonition is the only valid philosophy for an ambitious politician: ''Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing.''

Winning an election, for some candidates, means buying it. To heck with your resume -- you can lie and deceive people about that. To heck with running a campaign on the issues. The way to win is to pour in a ton of money and, if necessary, smear your opponent.

Out in Western Maryland a congressional candidate, Neil Dhillon, raised a quarter-million dollars from the Indian community across the country. It now turns out he didn't even register to vote in past elections and was convicted of assault five years ago. He's hoping that money talks.

In Towson, 21-year-old D. Jason Kim has routinely lied about his background but has raised $20,000 from California friends and family. With only 1,800 Republicans in the district and six delegate candidates running for one nomination, he believes money is all that counts. It now turns out he was kicked out of Johns Hopkins after submitting forged grade-change forms. He claimed he was a Hopkins graduate and a med-school student. False on both counts.

In Baltimore's 40th District, Robert Clay, a wealthy Laurel developer, wants to buy himself a seat in the legislature from a district he hardly knows. He's put up $135,000 so far -- an astounding amount for a delegate's race.

And then there's Jim Moorhead, running for comptroller against Louis L. Goldstein. He's far outspending the incumbent with $376,000 -- two-thirds of it from out-of-state sources. Mr. Moorhead has run a mud-in-your-eyes campaign that freely distorts facts. It is a slimy type of politicking adopted by candidates who believe you get elected by spending lavishly on advertising that calls the incumbent corrupt -- even if it's not true.

An even worse trend in certain counties is playing the race card. In both Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County, politicians eager to win at any cost are out to whip up a mob frenzy over racially linked issues -- crime and housing.

In eastern Baltimore County, a host of Republican hopefuls believe they can get elected by terrorizing folks into believing poor black families are moving in from the city. Democrats are demagoging on the issue, too, especially Louis DePazzo, who's acting the racist role to enhance his popularity in the councilmanic election.

The irony is that the program they're objecting to forbids these families from moving to that part of Baltimore County because it already has more than its share of low- income residents. But don't tell that to the politicians -- they're trying to scare folks, not calm them down.

It's the same story in Anne Arundel, where the big furor is over a mini-crime wave (which has since abated) in the Linthicum area as a result of the new light-rail station there. Ed Middlebrooks, a county councilman, sees panic in the streets of Linthicum as his ticket to the state Senate. His political convictions are so flexible he switched parties this summer to help his election chances. Anything goes.

That's certainly the case with Sheriff Robert Pepersack, who also has jumped on the light rail-crime issue. He wants the station shut down and a sheriff's posse patrolling the community with guns drawn. The fact that the sheriff doesn't have the power to do any such thing -- he's supposed to guard the courthouse -- is irrelevant. If you can stir up the rabble with crime fears, your political future is secure.

This is John Gary's premise in his race for Anne Arundel county executive. His pitch is covertly racist and overtly designed to put fear in the populace. He talks about ''protecting our border against an invasion of violent crime,'' of ''criminal elements leaking over our borders,'' of a ''threat to our lives, our property and our quality of life.''

He intends to stop all drug pushers at the border -- whatever that means. He makes it sound like he's ready to build a Berlin Wall around Arundel, complete with armed guards, to keep ''them'' out. This from the unopposed Republican nominee for county executive and a formerly responsible three-term delegate.

Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing for these politicians. Voters had better be on the alert when they go to the polls Tuesday.

E9 Barry Rascovar is editorial-page director of The Sun.

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