Curry Buys Radio Ads Attacking Gov.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 1998; Page A01
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry is anteing up some of his $1 million campaign war chest to support Democratic gubernatorial challenger Eileen M. Rehrmann, airing a series of tough radio ads accusing Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening of neglecting the county's schoolchildren.
In a commercial that began running on several Washington area radio stations yesterday, Curry says that Glendening "shortchanged" Prince George's schools by giving more money for school construction to Montgomery County. "We just can't trust Glendening to do the right thing for education in Prince George's County," Curry says, urging voters to back Rehrmann.
With a little-known challenger in his own reelection race, Curry is essentially putting his money where his mouth is in support of Rehrmann, the Harford County executive who is challenging Glendening in the Democratic primary. The ads escalate his long-running feud with Glendening and give a financial boost to Rehrmann, who trails the governor in the polls and has not had the fund-raising success that Glendening as an incumbent enjoys.
In campaigning for Rehrmann, Curry joins his close ally, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who recently held a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser for Rehrmann and appears in radio ads, paid for by her campaign, now airing in Baltimore. Along with their antagonism for Glendening, Curry, Schmoke and Rehrmann share the same chief political adviser: Baltimore lawyer Larry Gibson.
In the new ads, Curry says Glendening "gave our neighbor, Montgomery County, more than $144 million to build schools. That's good, but he gave Prince George's County, which has more schoolchildren and more temporary buildings, only $71 million. That's less than half. Incredibly, one year Glendening gave Montgomery County six times as much school construction money as Prince George's."
Glendening allies did not dispute the numbers presented by Curry, but they said the commercial distorts the governor's record by failing to consider a new four-year, $140 million school construction appropriation for Prince George's. Lawmakers also said Curry deserves much of the blame for any funding shortfalls.
Glendening campaign spokesman Peter Hamm called the commercial "shamefully inaccurate."
Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Glendening has provided Prince George's with "unprecedented" school funding. He said that for several years, Montgomery County did receive much more than Prince George's, mainly because it asked for the money, while Curry's administration did not.
Curry's commercials began airing on the same day that a performance audit of the Prince George's County schools revealed that the school system was losing millions of dollars each year because of widespread management problems. Rawlings noted that those problems extended through the four years that Curry has been county executive.
"In his first two years [in office], the Prince George's County executive did not make school construction money a priority," Rawlings said. Instead, Curry's administration had "no plans, no money, [while] sitting on the sidelines griping."
Although the ads may cause a stir for some Prince George's voters, they have the potential to backfire on Rehrmann's campaign in Montgomery County, a critical battleground in this year's governor's race, some analysts said.
"Indirectly, it might benefit the governor in Montgomery County by reminding voters about the major commitment he provided for education there," said Keith Haller, a Bethesda-based pollster.
Glendening's campaign also questioned the legality of the commercials, since Curry's campaign was paying for an ad to benefit Rehrmann. Such in-kind contributions are limited to $6,000 by law.
Although Curry would not say how much time was purchased or on what stations, a spokeswoman at WTOP radio said Curry had spent $22,000 to air the ad through the end of the month.
"Not only should the listeners out there be gauging the accuracy of this ad, but it's safe to say lawyers on both sides will be gauging the legality in the months to come," Hamm said.
In an interview, Curry said the ads are meant to provide a full account of how Prince George's County has fared in state funding for school construction.
"I've been talking consistently about the necessity to build schools here and the disparate allocation of state money for schools," he said. "I'm trying to find a way to tell the public this is critical, and here's what it's based on."
Rehrmann spokesman George Harrison said she had no comment on Curry's commercials. "She hasn't seen the copy, nor has she heard them," he said. "That was Wayne's thing."
The blast from one county executive came on the same day that Glendening received the endorsement of a top official in another county: Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger.
Staff writers Robert E. Pierre and Jackie Spinner contributed to this report.
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