Candidates Share Bitter Campaign Strategies

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 9, 2006

He is under attack for his opposition to an assault weapons ban and his support for Maryland's Republican governor. The other Democratic lawmakers in his district have formed a slate with his challenger in Tuesday's primary.

So state Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. has chosen in the final days of an increasingly nasty campaign to remind voters just what he did for his opponent, namely coming to James C. Rosapepe's aid when he was choking on a piece of fish.

"I saved his life and this is the thanks I get!" reads a flier that shows the incumbent splattered with mud.

Six months after the incident, the race between the two Democrats in District 21, which stretches across Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, has come back to the Heimlich maneuver performed Ash Wednesday in an Annapolis restaurant.

"What we've realized is we have to talk about it," Giannetti, 42, said. "Given the opportunity, I did the right thing."

Rosapepe, 55, who said his life was never in danger that night, shook his head at Giannetti's shift in tactics. "In the last days of the campaign, he's evidently decided to exploit this incident for political purposes," the former delegate and Clinton administration ambassador said. "That's disappointing."

Rosapepe has tried to hammer his opponent's record, including support for electric deregulation and tobacco interests.

Giannetti counters with the success of his legislation on drunken driving and hate crimes and, in his mud-splattered flier, says his opponent "is resorting to 'Swift Boat' style attacks." The fliers include a photo of his foe with the caption: "Ranting Jim Rosapepe. Throwing mud and hoping it sticks."

In this campaign duel, the weapon of choice is the campaign mailer.

Rosapepe has sent fliers linking Giannetti to "Big Tobacco," mapping out "crime scenes" where campaign signs have disappeared and displaying the incumbent's photo next to those of President Bush and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., both Republicans.

One flier features the father of a student who died in the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, asking, "Why does John Giannetti want assault weapons like the one used to kill so many of Daniel's classmates to be legal?" Giannetti's opposition to the weapons ban kept the measure from moving out of committee, and Rosapepe recently received an endorsement from gun control advocate Sarah Brady.

"I'm talking about his record, and if he thinks his record is negative, that's his judgment," Rosapepe said in an interview. "I supported him for his first race for the House of Delegates. I like the guy. He's a charming, good-looking guy. This isn't personal. It's about who addresses the problems of the district best."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company