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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.

Appearing at a charter school in Baltimore, Ehrlich (R) released a document showing the difference in test scores between students in Maryland as a whole and students in Baltimore. The difference was labeled the "Baltimore City Achievement Gap."

"Today is about showing contrasts," Ehrlich said.

Afterward, O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said it was "ridiculous for a governor to attack a school system for which he has joint control." The Baltimore school board is jointly appointed by Ehrlich and O'Malley.

Aides have said Ehrlich has several similar events planned before Election Day. He began the series Monday seeking to compare records on fiscal management.

Duncan Back in the Mix

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan is scheduled to make his first appearance with Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley since Duncan dropped out of the Democratic primary for governor in June.

Duncan, who cited clinical depression as the reason for his exit, is among the featured speakers Sunday at a get-out-the-vote rally for the entire ticket at a Montgomery County high school.

"We're down to critical time in the race," said Duncan spokesman David Weaver . "People are paying attention, and Doug's going to speak out in support of all the Democrats running in the race."

Weaver noted that Duncan made clear on the day he left the race that he was throwing his support behind O'Malley.

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