It's Televised Tit for Tat Between Ehrlich and O'Malley

By John Wagner
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley punched back hard yesterday in an increasingly ugly brawl with Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. over crime-fighting credentials that is playing out on Baltimore television.

In a new ad, O'Malley, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, calls the Republican governor "desperate" for questioning the accuracy of his city's crime statistics and says, "It's Bob Ehrlich's promises we should question."

"After pledging to end parole for violent criminals, Ehrlich broke that promise and allowed the release of prisoners who've committed violent crimes and murders again," the narrator says in a 30-second spot that includes flashing police lights juxtaposed with pictures of Ehrlich.

The ad closes by asking: "Can we trust anything Bob Ehrlich says?"

The ad is referring to Ehrlich's idea to "end parole for violent criminals," which was No. 20 on a list of "101 Outstanding Ideas for Maryland" put forward by Ehrlich in his 2002 campaign.

The O'Malley campaign provided a list late yesterday of 16 men who were charged with committing murder while under supervision of state parole and probation officials during Ehrlich's tenure.

"A lot of these are the result of the Parole Commission and the law," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver . "It's not just the governor's prerogative."

Ehrlich's office also mentioned two legislative initiatives that aimed to eliminate the possibility of parole for certain offenders but said they were thwarted by the Democrat-led legislature.

In 2003, Ehrlich pushed a measure to impose mandatory prison sentences without parole for violent offenders using firearms. That bill never came to a vote, according to the campaign.

And in a special session this year, Ehrlich pushed sex offender legislation that included mandatory minimums with no parole for violent sex offenders. That provision was removed from the final version of the bill. "Rather than explain his failed record on crime, the mayor attacks a governor who's moved the ball forward on public safety," DeLeaver said.

The new O'Malley ad, which is airing only in the Baltimore market, comes just days after Ehrlich took to the air with a TV ad that questioned the accuracy of O'Malley's crime statistics and knocked the mayor for failing to meet a goal of reducing Baltimore homicides to no more than 175 a year. Ehrlich has also sought to call attention to crime-related issues with recent radio ads and direct mail.

Meanwhile, O'Malley's former health commissioner, Peter Beilenson , has scheduled a news conference today "to expose Bob Ehrlich's failed record on drug treatment in the state of Maryland."

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