Johnson attacks Callahan in fliers 'Negative' tactic in mayoral race decried

October 30, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

In a last-minute maneuver before Tuesday's election, Republican mayoral candidate Dean L. Johnson sent out a mass mailing this week to remind Annapolis voters about his opponent's controversial record as a one-term mayor.

In bold capital letters, the vote-for-Johnson flier attacks Democrat Dennis M. Callahan, saying: "If we ignore history, we will repeat the mistakes of the past. Remember the days of Callahan? Let's not repeat the past. Move Annapolis forward."

The flier takes Callahan to task for his positions as mayor during the late 1980s in favor of building a housing community at what is now Quiet Waters Park; eliminating the city Fire Department; and for spurning a state offer for the city to assume jurisdiction over Forest Drive.

Callahan, who won his party's nomination for mayor in September by narrowly defeating longtime Alderman Carl O. Snowden, termed the mailing "negative campaign tactics."

Callahan made a surprising political comeback in winning the primary after unsuccessful bids to regain the mayoral job in two previous elections.

"I submit that usually the first campaign to go negative is the campaign that's in trouble," he said yesterday.

"We're disappointed that the Johnson campaign had to resort to negative campaigning. It's usually a sign of desperation. We're not going to jump in the mud with them, though."

Callahan said the accusations in the mailing were not worth comment.

Newspaper articles

Citing newspaper articles, the flier criticizes Callahan's proposal in November 1986 to eliminate the Fire Department and have the county provide the service to city residents.

It mentions Callahan's desire that same year for a housing development on a farm site off Forest Drive, on the southern edge of the city.

However, the county government followed the wishes of then-County Executive O. James Lighthizer in buying the land and building the now-popular park.

The flier condemns Callahan for rejecting an offer in 1987 from the state to give Annapolis control of Forest Drive, a congested county road that is the source of bitter fights between the city and county on traffic, development and annexations.

The mailing was the harshest move in the mayoral contest.

Johnson and Callahan have run seemingly civil -- some say boring -- campaigns.

Both had pledged to stay away from negativity after an unusually contentious Republican primary race between Johnson and Ward 7 Alderman M. Theresa DeGraff.

DeGraff lost by a large margin after being criticized for her attacks on Johnson in public forums and in hard-edged fliers mailed to voters.

Callahan and Snowden surprised voters by reining in their outspoken and sometimes abrasive personalities in a civil race for the Democratic nomination.

Johnson chuckled at Callahan's response to the mailing yesterday, saying, "Oh brother. I've heard everything now."

Johnson said the flier was a necessary response to issues that Callahan had raised in his mailings to voters or that Callahan supporters had raised in letters to local newspapers.

"It was an effort to dispel rumors spread by the Callahan campaign that I was going to merge the Fire Department, Police Department and public works with the county," Johnson said of his flier. "That's all untrue."

The Johnson flier was mailed to about 12,000 registered voters.

Callahan mailings

Callahan, who also has last-minute mailings planned, said the attack will not deter him from his path of civility.

"We're sticking to our plan," he said. "Our past administration was given an A-plus for performance. But we're not talking about 1986, we're talking about 1998. We've run a good campaign so far, and we'll continue to do so."

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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