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Prince George's judge bans 'misleading' candidates flier

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The vast number of candidates in Prince George's Democratic primary vying for county executive, County Council, sheriff, state's attorney, school board and the General Assembly is enough to confuse even a well-informed voter. But a flier circulating last week suggesting that candidates were backing people they are actually opposing has caused a county judge to step in.

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On Tuesday, Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Larnzell Martin Jr. banned the flier and said the county's sheriff's department could seize it from anyone handing it out.

The fliers, first seen Friday at Oxon Hill Library, a site for Maryland's first-ever early voting, also were mailed to residents of General Assembly District 26, which includes a large swath of the southern part of the county.

With a week to go before the Sept. 14 primary, the literature could cause "immediate, substantial and irreparable harm in the form of presentation of false and misleading advocacy information to the electorate," the judge said late Tuesday.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), whose office is investigating the flier and the group listed on it, Citizens for Change, Inc., said his office has received many complaints. "This type of thing undermines the integrity of the election and should not be tolerated," he said.

Gansler said the organization's failure to register with the state gave the government grounds to go to court to prevent circulation of the fliers. The group's treasurer, listed on the flier as Charles Summers, could not be located, said Maryland assistant attorney general Kathleen Wherthey.

State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George's), one of several candidates the flier linked to candidates he is not backing, said he was pleased with the ruling.

"Those sample ballots are illegal. They have violated election law and many other laws, including mail fraud," he said. "It deceives the voters."

Muse recently endorsed former state delegate Rushern L. Baker III for the Democratic nomination for county executive, but the flier showed him backing former council chairman Sam Dean, one of five candidates seeking the party's nod.

Baker and Dean are in a five-way race for executive, and the race has grown increasingly heated. The other candidates are Sheriff Michael Jackson, Del. Gerron S. Levi (D-Prince George's) and Henry Turner, a developer and businessman.

The flier suggested that Muse was also backing his own Democratic opponent, Albert Chatmon.

Angela Alsobrooks, a candidate for state's attorney, the county's top prosecutor, is also backed by Muse, but the fliers said Muse was backing one of her opponents, County Council Chairman Tom Dernoga. Alsobrooks received the flier in a mailing to her home.

Alsobrooks said in a letter to Gansler and other officials that she had located two other groups with the name Citizens for Change, but they are not associated with the flier.

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