Biographical ads on the back burner

Campaign Ad Watch

September 22, 2002|By HOWARD LIBIT

Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. began airing a television advertisement this weekend in which he attacks the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and portrays himself as an agent of change in Maryland government. The 30-second ad is airing in the Washington television markets.

What the ad says: The spot begins with a picture of Ehrlich, who narrates throughout. "We've had eight years of the Glendening-Townsend administration and almost 40 of a one-party monopoly," Ehrlich says, "and they still haven't fixed the mess in Annapolis."

The screen flashes to "The Glendening-Townsend Record: Corruption, Budget Deficits, Traffic," as Ehrlich says that "corruption, budget deficits and traffic jams are a way of life."

"But instead of debating real solutions, Ms. Townsend is trying to scare you with negative ads and fear," Ehrlich says, as an image pops up of Townsend's recent ad attacking Ehrlich's education record. "That's just wrong, and so are their ads."

A series of images flash on the screen: Ehrlich talking with police officers in East Baltimore, meeting with parents at a soccer field in Rockville and greeting commuters at a Silver Spring Metro stop with his running mate, Michael S. Steele. "I'm running for governor to change Annapolis and make Maryland proud," Ehrlich says.

The facts: Townsend has served with Gov. Parris N. Glendening for eight years, and Democrats have controlled the governor's mansion, Senate and House for 36 consecutive years.

It's an exaggeration to say that corruption, budget deficits and traffic jams represent the administration's record.

On the budget, Maryland ran record surpluses for most of the administration, with large shortfalls emerging more recently during the economic recession. Republicans say they warned Glendening and Townsend to curb spending before the recession.

On traffic, Glendening has opposed the Intercounty Connector, a highway supported by Ehrlich and many Montgomery County Democrats to relieve congestion in the Washington suburbs. But Townsend supports the highway, too. The administration also has made record state investments in mass transit.

The ad harks back to a federal judge's description of Annapolis as a "culture of corruption," made during the sentencing of a lobbyist in 2000 for fraud. The investigations have involved Democratic lawmakers or lobbyists, not administration officials, although Glendening's hand-picked chairman of the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Last week, Townsend launched a television ad about Ehrlich's education record, highlighting congressional votes in which he supported cutting school funding. Townsend says the ads are "comparative" to inform voters of the candidates' records. Ehrlich says they're negative attacks that unfairly distort procedural votes from six or seven years ago.

Analysis: With polls showing that Glendening has grown increasingly unpopular with voters, Ehrlich is trying to link Townsend firmly to Glendening's legacy. He's also trying to capitalize on the feeling among some voters that it's time for a change in Annapolis -- a feeling that has become more widespread after the state's highest court struck down Glendening's legislative redistricting plan.

Given that Ehrlich's ad follows Townsend's "comparative" ad on Ehrlich's record, it's apparent that both campaigns are moving their upbeat biographical ads to the back burner as they seek to capture the voter-rich Washington suburbs.

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