State Del. Connie Morella (R-Montgomery), seeking, she said, "to make sure that Annapolis does not become Hollywood on the Severn," has introduced a bill to bar elected officials from appearing in publicly funded commercials and advertisements.
Morella said her bill was motivated by the repeated airing of television commercials starring Gov. Harry Hughes, particularly those promoting the state's OK-Green business telephone hotline. The commercials with the Democratic Hughes, who is reportedly considering a race for U.S. Senate when his term expires in 1986, began last August and are scheduled to run until June.
They will cost the state $500,000, Morella told the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee today. "That is hundreds of thousands of dollars to give name recognition to an incumbent governor," she said.
"Now I realize he is a good-looking man and could almost be from central casting," she said. But, she added later, "I haven't seen the governor appear in any commercials to talk about prison overcrowding. It seems to me that he's picking his shots."
Morella said the state has budgeted grants of $50,000 and $130,000 for public education campaigns about child abuse and neglect. Also, shesaid, Attorney General Stephen Sachs -- a Democrat and probable gubernatorial candidate -- has taken to the airwaves to promote his office's work on behalf of consumer protection.
Morella is not the first to criticize Hughes for his television appearances. Hughes, however, has defended them. At a recent news conference he said, "Over the years I have sometimes been characterized . . . as being too low-key. It's really ironic that now that I have done some public announcing on TV commercials to prevent child abuse, to get people to buy smoke detectors and save lives and to create jobs in Maryland, I get some criticism for it."
Today, Hughes' spokesman Lou Panos was more tongue-in-cheek. Hughes could, said Panos, "take to television in silhouette and identify himself only as 'Mr. X,' but it's doubtful he could be as effective."
Committee members directed some sharp questioning at Morella. Chairwoman Helen Koss (D-Montgomery), for example, noted that the former Economic Development Secretary Frank DeFrancis, whom Morella has touted as a suitable substitute for Hughes in any commercials, is now being touted as a Republican candidate for governor.