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.
"Peter lives on an island," Ehrlich said of the Takoma Park resident's ideology to the roughly 1,000 attendees. "Chances are, no one in this room will ever visit that island."
Ehrlich said he was concerned that Franchot, who upset incumbent William Donald Schaefer (D) in the primary, would "stop me" on the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel on which both the governor and comptroller sit.
Several Democrats have also expressed concerns about Franchot landing on the panel and taking over as the state's chief tax collector, Ehrlich said.
"I am here to assure you that is not going to happen," Ehrlich said. "He doesn't even know what a comptroller does."
The Republican nominee for the position, former University of Baltimore business school dean Anne M. McCarthy , picked up on that theme upon taking the stage later.
"Unlike my opponent, I am actually qualified for this job," McCarthy said. She urged those in the audience to vote for her and to take 10 Democratic friends with them to the polls in November to do the same.
It may take something close to that to derail Franchot in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1. A Baltimore Sun poll published yesterday showed Franchot leading McCarthy 54 to 29 percent, with 17 percent undecided.
"With all due respect, the governor has a tough race himself," Franchot said. "I would urge the governor to focus on his race and spend less time thinking about mine."