Democrats claim senator mislabels party affiliation


October 19, 2006|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN REPORTER

The Maryland Democratic Party filed a complaint yesterday with the state Board of Elections against state Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr., alleging that the recently declared Republican is deliberately misleading voters by continuing to use campaign signs that label him as a Democrat.

In a letter sent to state elections administrator Linda H. Lamone, the state Democratic Party's executive director, Derek Walker, asked for an investigation into what he calls a violation of election law.

Walker identified at least a half-dozen 8-foot-by-4-foot Giannetti signs that feature his photo and list the senator's old party affiliation in District 21, which includes portions of northern Prince George's County and western Anne Arundel County.

Those signs are "a deliberate attempt to mislead voters and avoid informing the public of his party affiliation," Walker wrote.

He said the misrepresentation, along with an omission of the name of the campaign committee, is illegal.

Lamone and Deputy Administrator Ross K. Goldstein could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Giannetti's campaign put up scores of signs in his Democratic primary race against former Del. James C. Rosapepe. But in the weeks after Rosapepe won by nearly 20 percentage points, Giannetti's signs remained standing.

Giannetti changed parties last month at the behest of state GOP leaders, taking advantage of a loophole in Maryland law that allows him to run in the general election after his defeat in the Democratic primary in District 21.

Giannetti said yesterday that he ordered new signs after becoming a Republican and that they arrived this week. He said his campaign has replaced signs from College Park to Laurel and hopes to complete the task by the weekend.

"We're doing it in good faith," Giannetti said.

Asked why he did not move more quickly to remove signs that indicated he was a Democrat, Giannetti pointed to Rosapepe signs that still label Del. Brian R. Moe as a candidate. Moe, a member of Rosapepe's slate, lost in the primary. Rosapepe is "just as much in violation as I am," Giannetti said.

Rosapepe said the real issue is party representation, not whether campaign signs are still advertising defeated primary candidates.

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