Union takes issue with Ehrlich votes

October 07, 2002|By Howard Libit

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees began airing a television advertisement last week saying that Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. would bring "the wrong change" to Maryland. The ad is airing in the Baltimore and Washington television markets.

What the ad says: The 30-second spot opens with Ehrlich speaking, promising: "We can change Maryland."

An announcer's voice cuts in, saying "Hold it!" -- the same words that are on the screen in bold writing.

"As a congressman, Bob Ehrlich voted for the wrong kind of change," the announcer says. "Voted against raising the minimum wage. Voted against real HMO reform. Voted against a real prescription drug benefit for seniors. Ehrlich even voted to eliminate the Department of Education."

With each vote, the ad flashes pictures of Ehrlich and cites specific congressional votes. At the bottom of every screen is a Web site sponsored by the union, www.ehrlichvotes .com.

"No wonder The Baltimore Sun wrote that Ehrlich attempts to disguise his political past," the announcer says as the screen shows a portion of the quote and the newspaper's masthead.

"Politician Bob Ehrlich. The wrong change for Maryland," the announcer concludes.

The final image on the screen spells Ehrlich's name as "Ehrlich."

The facts: The ad says that Ehrlich voted against raising the minimum wage, which he did four times in Congress.

While the ad charges that Ehrlich voted against "real HMO reform" and against "a real prescription drug benefit for seniors," Republicans and Democrats differ on the definition of "real."

Ehrlich opposed legislation backed by Democrats and many senior citizen groups, but supports bills that Republicans argued would have offered a solution on those issues.

As the ads says, Ehrlich supported the 1995 GOP effort to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. He and other Republicans said they were trying to eliminate the Washington bureaucracy and send the money to local schools.

The ad quotes The Sun, suggesting the newspaper had published a news article or editorial concluding that Ehrlich is trying "to disguise his political past." The quotation actually is from a piece written by columnist Michael Olesker.

Analysis: The ad is another effort by independent advocacy groups to highlight the voting record of Ehrlich. The union has been a big supporter of Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, benefiting significantly from the governor's decision to grant state workers collective bargaining rights.

The ad tries to take Ehrlich's message of bringing change to Maryland and turn it around on him.

"It's a fair spot that's based on the record," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College. "I think it's a relatively clever turn on Ehrlich's talk about change."

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