With the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary a week and a half away, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler appears to be unloading everything that he doesn’t like about his rivals onto voters.
His campaign began airing an ad in Baltimore on Friday that attacks front-runner Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown for a number of things in just 30 seconds — including that Brown spent a decade working at a corporate law firm, used a state-owned suite at the stadium where the Redskins play, used taxpayer dollars to travel to Vegas for a conference, took campaign contributions from people who were later convicted of crimes, ignored problems at the Baltimore jail, lost jobs to other states and raised taxes.
“Anthony Brown,” the ad concludes. “He’ll cost us.”
There is no clear path to victory for Gansler right now, although he says he remains confident that he will still win. A poll released by The Washington Post on Tuesday shows Gansler trailing Brown by 23 percentage points. Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery), who is running a grass-roots campaign using public financing, is only seven points behind him. Even on Gansler’s home turf, Montgomery County, Brown is slightly ahead.
On Wednesday, Gansler took a couple of swipes at Mizeur, whom he has largely ignored up until now. In a radio interview, Gansler twice brought up that Mizeur did not finish college. Her campaign manager said his comments were “elitist.”
On Thursday, Gansler unexpectedly proposed nearly $600 million in tax relief for the middle class, a last-minute proposal that he says will offset some of the financial burden incurred under the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley. Then came the new ad attacking Brown — which the Brown campaign largely shrugged off.
“It’s a sad day when a once-respected leader in our community has resorted to such despicable tactics, but it’s the kind of reckless and irresponsible behavior we’ve come to expect from Doug Gansler,” said Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign manager.
Brown’s campaign has publicly pushed back against Gansler, but they have yet to really go after him in the same aggressive fashion in television ads. (Brown has spent heavily on mailers attacking Gansler’s support of a corporate income tax and more modest plans for expanding pre-kindergarten education than other Democrats.)
Brown was on the offensive during the first televised debate in early May, letting voters know that Gansler was once reprimanded by the state’s highest court when he was a prosecutor. But he seemed to instead stay on the defensive during the last televised debate on June 5.
The campaign has released an ad accusing Gansler of “attacking Obamacare” by criticizing the troubled rollout of the state’s health insurance Web site.
And an independent expenditure group has aired the hardest-hitting ads against Gansler during the campaign. They reference the scandal that erupted after a photo emerged of the attorney general at beach party where under-aged drinking allegedly occurred and reports that Gansler ordered his state police chauffeurs to speed and run red lights while headed to routine appointments. (The Post poll found that increasing numbers of Democratic voters say these two incidents are not an important factor in their voting decision.)
The Gansler campaign plans to release another ad on Friday that will soon appear in “significant rotation” in the Baltimore area, according to a campaign spokeswoman. The ad features Gansler’s running mate Del. Jolene Ivey (Prince George’s), who immediately tells voters that her father “was a Buffalo Soldier, serving in an all-black unit in World War II.” Ivey goes on to say that she and Gansler both endorsed Obama when he first ran for president. Brown initially endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 race.
“Doug and I endorsed President Obama when he ran. Anthony Brown worked to defeat him,” Ivey says. “That’s an importance difference — we will always work for you.”
African Americans are one of Brown’s most solid sources of support. In the Post poll, Brown was 45 percentage points ahead of Gansler when looking at just African American registered voters.
Scott Clement and Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.