When a race gets heated, truth is the first to wilt CAMPAIGN 1994

November 06, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Kris Antonelli, Consella A. Lee and John Rivera contributed to this article.

In an attack ad, Republican John G. Gary has accused his opponent for Anne Arundel County executive of being endorsed by President Clinton. He hasn't been.

Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus, in another attack ad, has claimed that Mr. Gary's paycheck as a state delegate was garnisheed by the courts to pay business debts. It wasn't.

Although based on actual occurrences, both charges stretch the truth -- a strategy employed by candidates in races from executive to state delegate. "Everybody is looking for credibility," said Daniel Nataf, a political science professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and a Severna Park resident. "Everybody is stretching for the mainstream."

Anne Arundel politicians are not alone. In local races across the country, many voters will go to the polls armed only with the information fed to them by the candidates themselves, said Diana Dwyre, a professor of American politics at UMBC.

Often, because the risk of being exposed is so low, candidates will make a "strategic decision" and falsely claim "I have this credential or that I received that passing grade," Ms. Dwyre said. "Unless an opponent or the media counter it vocally and $H forcefully, the voter simply won't know it isn't true. What it really comes down to is 'buyer beware.' "

That warning would come in handy in Anne Arundel this year, where newspaper ads, direct mail fliers and stump-speech claims have buried voters in an avalanche of information, disinformation and downright misinformation. For example:

* Mr. Gary said in a recent pamphlet that his opponent has been endorsed by former County Executive O. James Lighthizer, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and President Clinton. Mr. Sophocleus has not received direct support from any of the three men in the current election.

Mr. Gary defended his claim last week, noting that Mr. Sophocleus was endorsed by Mr. Lighthizer and Mr. Schaefer in 1990. He also noted that the Democrat coordinated Mr. Clinton's presidential campaign in Anne Arundel County in 1992.

"It's a downright, unadulterated lie," Mr. Sophocleus said of the alleged endorsements. "I supported [former Republican Rep.] Marjorie Holt in 1972; does that mean she's endorsing me?"

Mr. Gary conceded that he felt "uncomfortable" with the line and had it removed from subsequent mailings.

* A newspaper advertisement paid for by the Sophocleus campaign initially appeared to many readers to have been an endorsement of the Democrat by former Republican state Del. John Leopold. The ad was modified after Mr. Leopold complained.

The ad also claimed that Mr. Gary had his wages garnisheed to pay bad business debts. Though documents had been filed in court, his wages were never actually garnisheed.

* Republican John Greiber, a candidate for state's attorney, has exaggerated a portion of his family history in handbills. Mr. Greiber said he was "born and raised" in Anne Arundel County. But Mr. Greiber was born in South Baltimore. His family did not move to Brooklyn Park until he was 4. Although he attended Brooklyn Park High School, he also attended high school in Pennsylvania and graduated from Southern High in Baltimore. Later, Mr. Greiber, 50, lived and worked in Baltimore County and Pennsylvania before returning to Anne Arundel County in the early 1980s.

* Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Democrat, and his District 31 running RTC mates said in a newspaper ad Friday that they had "stopped construction of the Detention Center in Glen Burnie."

But county spokeswoman Louise Hayman said the county is moving forward with plans to build a second county jail on 80 acres on Ordnance Road. The County Council approved the site near Curtis Creek last winter; work crews have been preparing the site.

Mr. Jimeno explained Friday that the ad referred to a 1992 Senate vote that blocked planning and construction money for the $80 million, 650-bed jail originally proposed by County Executive Robert R. Neall. The current plan calls for a $27 million, minimum-security center.

The senator also noted that the new council, with at least four new members, and the new executive could reverse the site decision.

* Mr. Greiber has said Eugene Whissel, who prosecuted Scottland Williams for burglary and theft several months before Williams was charged in the slayings of two Arnold attorneys, did not seek a presentence investigation that could have increased his sentence.

But court records from the Feb. 3 hearing show that Mr. Whissel did ask for an investigation. Judge Warren B. Duckett declined the request.

* Two Republican candidates -- James E. Rzepkowski and Gerald P. Starr, for District 32 delegate seats -- have said that Democrat Thomas H. Dixon III receives "paychecks and pensions funded by taxpayer dollars. . . ."

Mr. Dixon is a personnel manager for the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, a state-created automotive insurer of last resort. But Mr. Dixon's salary is paid by premiums, not taxpayer dollars, said Assistant Attorney General Mark D. McCurdy.

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