Two Gansler supporters criticize ad knocking Brown for votes on child sex abuse lawsuits

Two prominent supporters of Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler criticized him Monday for airing a television ad in advance of next week’s primary that depicts the race’s front-runner, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, as voting against the interests of sexual assault victims while a state delegate a decade ago.

The ad produced by Gansler, the state’s attorney general, claims that Brown, who represented a Prince George’s County district, was “the only delegate to vote against helping child sex-abuse victims find justice and rebuild their lives.” The ad, which started airing in the Washington region Saturday, also features an adult identified as “Anne” who says she was abused at age 13 and that Brown “went back on his word” to “stand up for victims like me.”

In 2003, Brown was the only delegate to vote on the House floor against a pair of bills that extended the statute of limitations for bringing civil cases in instances of child sexual abuse. Brown has maintained he voted against the bills as a protest because he believed they had been weakened too much during the committee process.

On Monday, Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), a Gansler supporter, said in an interview that Brown’s representation was correct and that she is “really disappointed” in Gansler’s ad.

“I was there,” said Dumais, who now serves as vice chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, which had jurisdiction over the bills in question. “It was a protest vote. There’s no question. … I’m disappointed that Doug used Anthony’s record on that bill in this way.”

Del. Benjamin S. Barnes, another Gansler supporter, said he considered Gansler’s ad “unfortunate and ineffective.”

“I don’t think anyone’s going to believe that Anthony Brown supports child molesters,” said Barnes, whose district includes part of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and is co-chairman of Gansler’s campaign in Anne Arundel. “Doug’s got a strong record as attorney general that he should stand on it and emphasize that instead.”

Gansler, who is trailing in the polls, previously sought to use Brown’s votes against him during a debate earlier this month. That prompted Brown’s campaign manager, Justin Schall, to call Gansler “reckless and irresponsible,” a charge the Brown campaign repeated Monday. Schall also accused Gansler of “using abuse victims for his own political ambition,” and the campaign released the names of several advocates for victims of sexual violence who praised Brown’s work on issues they champion.

The Gansler campaign said it stood by the ad.

“Anthony Brown is using selected advocates to denigrate the horrific story of abuse suffered by the woman in our ad and to cover up his own failure to keep his word to her and to Maryland’s sex abuse victims who need a true champion, not an election-year phony,” said Gansler spokeswoman Katie Hill.

Those remarks were echoed in a statement by Gansler’s running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), who said: “This woman spoke the truth from her heart. Anthony Brown needs to check his own voting record.”

Gansler’s campaign would not identify the woman in the ad beyond her first name and said she was not available for interviews.

Brown and Gansler are competing in a June 24 Democratic primary that also includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery).

As introduced, one of the bills in question would have given victims of child sexual abuse until age 33, instead of 21, to file lawsuits. But by the time the bill passed, the age had been rolled back to 25. The other bill was similar.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Brown unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill before it reached the floor. His amendments would have restored the age cutoff to 33 and also allowed victims to seek damages after that if there were clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was liable.

Brown was joined by several other delegates in voting against the bills on the committee level. One of the bills was approved 14 to 6, while the other was approved 12 to 9. The other ‘no” votes became “yes” votes once the bills reached the floor.

Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, who worked to get the bills passed in 2003, said Monday that Brown was “a strong advocate for the survivors.”

“That ad absolutely and completely misrepresents Anthony Brown’s record on that issue and that bill,” said Jordan, who is not involved in the campaign.

In the 30-second ad, neither the narrator nor the woman identified as Anne refer to any other legislation. Text that appears in the ad lists a couple of other bill numbers from 1999 and the date of a Washington Times story from 2006, none of which is explained.

The 1999 bills both sought to establish a sex-offender registry accessible on the Internet. The version that became law passed the House by a vote of 83 to 54. Brown was among those who against the bill, joining many of his more liberal colleagues in the chamber in opposition.

The Washington Times story from 2006 quotes sexual abuse victims who said they were disappointed in Brown’s lack of support for a bill that would allowed retroactive lawsuits against the Catholic Church in abuse cases. The story says that Brown “grilled” leaders of the church at a bill hearing but later told advocates for the legislation that he could not be their “champion” on the bill.

Schall said Brown instead co-sponsored a different bill that sought to further extend the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases. That bill passed the House but later died in the Senate.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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