Debate Targets Death Penalty

By Ann E. Marimow and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 4, 2006

Maryland's Senate candidates jostled over capital punishment and voting rights yesterday in a final debate, and gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley prepared to air an ad featuring former president Bill Clinton urging Marylanders to vote for the Democratic nominee, whom he calls "my good friend."

"I've seen him at work, fighting for the right kind of change," Clinton says in the 30-second spot scheduled to air in the Washington and Baltimore media markets starting today. "There is a difference in this election, and you can make it."

In the Senate debate, Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin said Republican Michael S. Steele should have done more as lieutenant governor to repair the state's death penalty system, and Steele, the first African American elected statewide, suggested that Cardin was insensitive to racial disparities in its application.

The debate came as candidates traversed the state to bring out the vote for Tuesday's election.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), in his second visit to Prince George's County, drew hundreds to a rally at Bowie State University, where he exhorted black voters to stick with the Democratic Party, and with Cardin and O'Malley in particular.

"I think it's great that the Republican Party has discovered black people," Obama said to the cheering crowd. "But . . . you don't vote for somebody because of what they look like. You vote for somebody because of what they stand for."

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) stuck to his home base in Baltimore County, where he visited several senior centers and highlighted his opposition to using eminent domain to seize private property. "The cross-over Democrats here voted for me" in 2002, Ehrlich said.

Steele spent the afternoon knocking on doors in Bowie and Seat Pleasant.

The Clinton ad comes amid charges that Republicans are trying to tamp down turnout in Tuesday's election and concerns among some Democrats that O'Malley's campaign has not done enough to excite voters in the predominantly Democratic Washington suburbs.

Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to Clinton and an O'Malley supporter who lives in Montgomery County, said the Clinton ad appears to be designed to drive up turnout by Democrats and draw independent voters considering Ehrlich. "They need to turn their base out," Davis said of the O'Malley campaign. "Bill Clinton is the most popular Democrat in the United States . . . but even Bill Clinton isn't going to change somebody's mind who's already decided to vote for Bob Ehrlich."

Ehrlich aides said they were not impressed.

"This ad proves what Marylanders already know: Martin O'Malley's ambition is Pennsylvania Avenue and not with working Maryland families or the city residents he is trying to abandon," said spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver.

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