Ehrlich Reaches Out to Blacks in Ad Jabbing at O'Malley

By John Wagner
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) launched an appeal yesterday to black voters in Prince George's County and Baltimore with a radio ad suggesting that policing has become too aggressive in Baltimore under his Democratic rival, Mayor Martin O'Malley.

The 60-second ad is narrated by William H. Murphy , a prominent black Baltimore lawyer who is a longtime friend of Ehrlich's.

"I don't think anybody understands the criminal justice system better than I do, and that's why I'm not voting for Martin O'Malley for governor," Murphy says in the ad. "He sanctions and directs the arrests of thousands of Baltimore City people, predominantly black, without ever charging them with a crime."

Murphy is referring to a policy of stepped-up enforcement under O'Malley of "quality of life" offenses, such as loitering, public urination and failure to obey an officer. Police say that the strategy helps break up drug corners and deter more serious crimes. But it has generated some outspoken critics, including members of the Baltimore legislative delegation.

Typically, more than a quarter of those arrested for such offenses are never charged with a crime. In many cases, police say, an arrest is sufficient to defuse a potentially volatile situation.

O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said Ehrlich's ad amounted to "attacking our police officers."

Ehrlich, who is trailing in the polls, will "make every false, sleazy accusation in the book, because he doesn't want to talk about his record of higher utility rates, tuition and health-care costs," Kearney said. "But the truth is, crime is down in Baltimore."

Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said the ads are airing on stations geared toward African American listeners in Prince George's and Baltimore. Ehrlich has said in the past that he was disappointed with his performance in Prince George's in 2002 and thinks he can win more votes in the heavily Democratic, majority-black county this year.

The choice of Murphy as narrator raised some eyebrows in the political community.

Murphy's hiring as an outside counsel by the Maryland Stadium Authority was criticized last year by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D). With Ehrlich's blessing, the authority hired Murphy to prepare for possible litigation with Major League Baseball over the arrival of a ballclub in Washington.

Curran said the authority should have given state lawyers first crack at the work, because they would not have charged up to $685 an hour, which is what Murphy's firm billed the authority.

Ehrlich Sees Franchot on Deserted Island

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is, of course, running for reelection against Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D). But Ehrlich (R) has directed his heaviest firepower toward the Democrats' candidate for comptroller, Montgomery Del. Peter Franchot , at a Republican dinner Tuesday night in Baltimore.

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