Townsend flunks Ehrlich on record

Campaign Ad Watch

October 15, 2002|By David Nitkin

Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has been airing similar advertisements in the Baltimore and Washington areas that continue her strategy of highlighting Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s congressional votes, along with grades given to him by interest groups. Townsend is attempting to portray her opponent as too conservative and out of touch with state voters.

What the ad says: The commercial playing in the Washington region opens with an image of Ehrlich from his own commercial, with him saying "While Mrs. Townsend distorts my record ... " A red "pause" sign flashes on the screen.

"Hold on a minute," the announcer says.

"The National Education Association gave Ehrlich a grade of `F' for voting against college loans, smaller class sizes and to abolish the Department of Education," the announcer says, as a red "F" is displayed against a classroom, with Ehrlich's face on the other side of the screen. "He voted against banning assault weapons and cheap handguns, and got an `F' grade from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence," the voice says. A row of assault weapons is displayed. Then an image of someone pulling a handgun from his pants pocket is shown. Again, the "F" and Ehrlich's face appear on the screen.

"He voted to permit the dumping of waste in the Chesapeake Bay and got an `F' grade from the League of Conservation Voters. A film clip shows an outfall pipe, Ehrlich's face, and the red "F."

"The only one distorting the Ehrlich record? Bob Ehrlich." A graphic on the screen says: "The Ehrlich Record: Education - F. Gun control - F. Environment - F."

The ad airing in the Baltimore region is identical in its opening.

But instead of mentioning guns and the environment, the ad says: "He voted against a real prescription drug benefit for seniors, and he got an `F' grade from the American Public Health Association. He voted five times against the minimum wage, and the Baltimore Sun said he's followed a hard-right agenda."

The facts: The commercials highlight several of Ehrlich's congressional and state legislative votes, which have been used by the Townsend campaign in previous commercials.

Ehrlich voted in 1995 against funding the Education Department, but he wanted to return the money to states through grants. He has voted for other education increases since then.

Ehrlich's gun votes have been well documented and have gained fresh publicity in the past month after he said he would review the effectiveness of some of the state's gun laws.

Ehrlich supported a GOP Medicaid prescription drug plan that would have relied on private insurance companies for coverage. Democrats said it was unrealistic.

The Baltimore ad quotes a 2000 Sun endorsement of Ehrlich in which the paper's editorial board said Ehrlich had squandered leadership opportunities by adhering to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "hard-right agenda." The paper has not made an endorsement in the race for governor.

Analysis: Townsend is continuing to pound away at Ehrlich's voting record, her strategy since she began slipping in the polls during the summer. The Washington-area ad is particularly noteworthy, however, because it mentions guns and shows assault weapons for the first time since the sniper crisis began.

The Townsend campaign believes voters in Montgomery and Prince George's counties are more likely to be swayed by Ehrlich's gun-related votes than those in Baltimore would, and they are willing to raise the issue during a time of crisis.

"It's a risk," said Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political science professor. "But it's not like they haven't raised the gun issue before. It sounds to me like they've buried it sufficiently."

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