Duncan brings out two new TV ads

He reuses O'Malley, Ehrlich cutouts to criticize his rivals on crime, education

Maryland Votes 2006


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Douglas M. Duncan uses what are fast becoming his favorite props -- life-size cardboard cutouts of Mayor Martin O'Malley and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. -- to knock his rivals in two new 15-second television ads that started airing yesterday in the Baltimore media market.

The cardboard candidates made their debut in Duncan's first TV ad, a 30-second biographical spot that launched last week in the Baltimore area. The new ads have a sharper edge.

One new ad criticizes O'Malley, Duncan's Democratic primary rival, and Ehrlich, the first-term Republican governor, for not doing enough to fix the Baltimore City school system. The other accuses O'Malley of cooking the city's crime statistics to show significant progress on his watch while criticizing Ehrlich's opposition to the assault weapons ban.

Campaign officials for O'Malley and Ehrlich said the spots constitute negative and misleading advertising and defended their candidates.

"With many of Baltimore's schools failing, these guys have spent all their time fighting for political advantage," Duncan says in the education ad. "I've spent my time putting together a real plan to improve schools."

Jonathan Epstein, O'Malley's campaign manager, said voters deserve more from candidates.

"Mr. Duncan had the opportunity in this ad to present a positive vision for Maryland, but because he has no positive vision he is instead continuing his negative, attack-style politics," he said.

In the crime ad, viewers see the smiling cutout of O'Malley and hear Duncan say: "This guy says crime's dropped by 40 percent ... but he's got a problem with numbers."

Duncan is referring to a Sun report that showed an audit of city crime statistics ordered by O'Malley early in his tenure changed the way the numbers were crunched. Audit results gave O'Malley ammunition to say that there's been a nearly 40 percent reduction in violent crime in the city between 1999 and 2004, but the preaudit numbers reveal a more modest reduction of 23.5 percent.

After O'Malley, Duncan turns his attention to a grinning cardboard Ehrlich. "This guy thinks we need more assault weapons on the street, like that's going to help us," Duncan says, urging viewers to take a look at the crime plan available on his Web site.

Ehrlich campaign manager Bo Harmon sent an e-mail to reporters yesterday chiding Duncan for "blatantly lying" about the governor's record on guns and asking that Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, take his ad off the air.

"Doug Duncan's `Think Bigger' slogan should also apply to the level of truthfulness in advertising," Harmon said, adding that Ehrlich has never supported a repeal of the assault weapons ban. "In the second ad of his campaign, the seemingly kind-hearted lion has finally shed his guise and joined his primary opponent in the use of lies and scare tactics."

However, Ehrlich's beliefs about assault weapons are more complicated. Though an Ehrlich spokeswoman told The Sun in February that the governor had no public position on a proposed Maryland assault weapons ban, he received an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association when he was a member of Congress. He also voted in 1996 as a member of Congress to repeal the federal assault weapons ban.

Sarah Brady, honorary chairwoman of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, issued a statement yesterday criticizing Harmon for misleading voters about Ehrlich's record on guns.

"The Ehrlich campaign should be ashamed," said Brady, whose husband, James, was wounded in the 1981 attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. "Bob Ehrlich, as a member of Congress, voted to repeal the federal ban on assault weapons in 1996. There is no ambiguity about that whatsoever. It is fact. In addition, Governor Ehrlich has indicated repeatedly for years that he would veto a state ban if one was sent to him for signature."

The Duncan ads can be seen on WMAR-TV, WBAL-TV, WJZ-TV and WBFF-TV. Jody Couser, a spokeswoman for the campaign, would not comment on cost or duration.

Couser said the campaign hopes the ads increase Duncan's name recognition in Baltimore and disputed that the campaign had gone negative. She characterized the ads as "looking at the candidates' records."

The Duncan campaign also received a few endorsements yesterday, including from the Cumberland and Hagerstown branches of the International Association of Fire Fighters; the Montgomery County Federation of Teachers; and three local unions of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.


Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.

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