No one's letter-perfect in this governor's race

Errors: The Townsend and Ehrlich forces are in a dead heat, grammatically speaking.

October 10, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend wants voters to know about her opponent's "F" rating from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. thinks they should hear about the Glendening-Townsend administration's "D" on fiscal policies from the Cato Institute.

But neither probably wants to reveal the grade they and their supporters would get on spelling and grammar: Both might flunk.

When the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest union representing state workers, released a television ad last week that misspelled Ehrlich's name, the GOP candidate became indignant.

"I'd like to ask AFSCME and other surrogates of the Townsend campaign to spell my name correctly in future attack ads. My name is spelled `Ehrlich,' not `Ehrlich,'" the congressman said in a statement released over the weekend. "If you're going to attack me, please do it with dignity, respect and proper spelling. Politics is one thing, but proofreading is quite another."

Quite another indeed, and something the Republican campaign has yet to master.

Less than 48 hours after his call for accuracy, Ehrlich issued an invitation to a fashion show this week at the Indian Springs Country Club in Silver Spring, promising a night of "food, fashion and flare." But bell-bottoms weren't featured and running mate Michael S. Steele did not drift away in a dinghy on the Potomac, so it's a safe bet the event's backers meant "flair."

Even more embarrassing was last week's electronic newsletter from the Ehrlich campaign, which included an item about bare-knuckled Democratic campaign operative Julius Henson.

As he was calling Ehrlich a Nazi, the newsletter said, Henson was "highered and fired and highered again by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's campaign."

It was produced by a young technology maven who must have switched off his computer's grammar-checking function.

"Our tech guy can work wonders on a laptop, but he'd be the first to admit spelling is not his forte," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver. "With millions of dollars in the bank, one would think both campaigns could afford a full-time proofreader."

Each could use one. Some are still scratching their heads over the opening line in a Sept. 23 Townsend news release, written in response to a GOP ad that flashed the word "corruption."

"Bob Ehrlich's nasty new TV ad makes a remarkable accusation without making it," it says.

Usually sharp-tongued Townsend aide Peter Hamm takes credit for that inscrutable prose.

"One thing is for certain: Whether we have another debate or not, the candidates should probably avoid a spelling bee," quipped Hamm.

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