Candidates Claim High Ground . . . but Campaigns Get Down and Dirty

By John Wagner
Thursday, October 26, 2006

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley declined media requests yesterday to release a copy of his application to the Maryland bar, a document that requires disclosure of any arrests and court proceedings in which applicants have been involved.

The requests came after reports yesterday that O'Malley (D) had been charged with -- but found not guilty of -- driving under the influence of alcohol in 1987, when he was a 24-year-old law student at the University of Maryland.

"I don't recall what was on the bar application," O'Malley told reporters. "I'm quite sure I followed whatever rules were required at the time.

"I hope you understand my unwillingness to fuel distractions and to try to turn what was a not-guilty finding 20 years ago into a guilty finding today. I'm not going to do it. I'm going to stay on the business of running this race."

O'Malley noted that the State Board of Law Examiners was doing background checks on applicants at the time, a fact confirmed yesterday by the organization's secretary, Bedford T. Bentley Jr. Bentley said that if anything disqualifying had been discovered about O'Malley, he would not have been admitted to the bar.

O'Malley made his comments at an event in Baltimore where he announced his endorsement by a statewide firefighters union, whose members praised his commitment to homeland security. But the announcement was quickly overshadowed by questions about the DUI incident and yesterday's endorsement by The Washington Post of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

At a separate event, Ehrlich was asked what he thought of the O'Malley campaign's accusation that he had been "peddling" the story about the DUI arrest.

"I'm surprised he didn't claim it was George Bush ," Ehrlich said, adding: "That's not of any consequence to anyone, what happened 20 years ago."

That didn't stop his campaign staff, however, from releasing a copy of Ehrlich's application to the bar. "Governor Ehrlich has nothing to hide," said spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver .

Democrats, meanwhile, used the episode to point reporters to extracurricular activity that Ehrlich engaged in while a student at Princeton: scalping sports tickets.

Ehrlich told The Post in 2002 that his scalping activities ended with a police sting operation. A police officer told Ehrlich that he was under arrest, but a Princeton proctor rescued him. "The proctor took good care of me," Ehrlich said in a 2002 interview. "He was a big football fan. He got me out of there."

Ehrlich Highlighting the Differences

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. continued his "Tale of Two Records" tour yesterday, turning to education in his latest attempt to contrast his record with that of his Democratic challenger, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

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