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First negative ad brings new edge to Md. gov's race

Aaron C. Davis

If the metaphor of two boxers dancing around the ring has best summed up the first month of Maryland's much-ballyhooed rematch between Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., (R) then here's the first punch:

o'malley-kickoff.jpg"Fantasy Land," the contest's first ad - and a negative one, at that - was released by the O'Malley camp on Thursday afternoon.


The ad begins with a harp prelude that might conjure images of wavy-lined fantasy sequences in a TV sitcom. It then goes after Ehrlich for what the ad claims are dreamed-up exaggerations by the Republican about the fiscal condition in which he left Maryland when he lost his re-election bid to O'Malley in 2006.

"And now we return to another episode of 'Bob Ehrlich's Fantasy Land,' a make-believe world where former Gov. Bob Ehrlich keeps spinning his own fairy tale of leaving office with a budget surplus," a female narrator begins in a condescending tone.

Md-OpeningDay-Ehrlich2.JPGThe ad then cuts to a clip of Ehrlich saying, 'We had a surplus; we left a lot of money in the budget.'

"But wait a minute, Bob. Records show you didn't leave a surplus." An apparent 2006 recording of Ehrlich's former budget secretary, Cecilia Januszkiewicz, then seems to quote her saying an existing surplus at the time would be needed to cover the following year's budget.

"The truth is Bob Ehrlich had record spending increases. Spending increases bigger than [former Gov. Parris N.] Glendening or [former Gov. William Donald] Schaefer," the narrator says, ratcheting up the attack at the end: "Worse, Ehrlich raised over $3 billion in taxes and fees, including millions in property tax hikes on every business and family. Record spending and billions in taxes isn't a fantasy Bob, it's a record Maryland shouldn't forget."

The ad concludes, "Paid for by Friends of Martin O'Malley. M. Cadogan, treasurer."

Andy Barth, a spokesman for the Ehrlich campaign, predicted the negative ad would turn out to be an ill-fated attempt by O'Malley to deflect attention from his own record over the last four years.

"Martin O'Malley has two choices," Barth said. "He can talk about 2010 or try to remake history. He can talk about his own record of record job losses, record tax increases and record budget deficits, or try to change the subject. Not surprisingly, he wants to change the subject -- but we won't let him, because this is revisionist history.

When Bob Ehrlich left office in January of 2007," Barth said, "there was a billion-dollar surplus and a balanced budget."

Tom Russell, O'Malley's campaign manager, took issue with the description of the negative ad as the contest's "first punch."

"I'd say, more like a counterpunch," Russell said. Ehrlich "has lacked a lot of accuracy in terms of what he says about us, and maybe even lacked more accuracy in what he says about himself."

Russell characterized the ad as a "somewhat light-hearted way to use Bob Ehrlich and the words of his own budget director to show, frankly, how insane some of the claims that he's made are."

We'll get back to you on the accuracy of the ad's claims. Russell said it would begin airing Friday in Baltimore, meaning it could be a commercial during the Saturday WBAL radio program that Ehrlich still hosts with his wife.

By Aaron C. Davis  |  May 6, 2010; 5:50 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections  
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Wasn't the Washington Post quoting Martin O'Malley last week saying that Bob Ehrlich wants to move backwards and he wants go forwards? And then O'Malley unleashes a negative ad out of the gate that goes backwards! Sort of funny on his line about Ehrlich and taxes since Martin O'Malley passed the largest tax hike in Maryland history. The bottom line is that Martin O'Malley has more special interest (labor union, trial lawyers, developer) money than Bob Ehrlich will this time and so he will dominate the airwaves and so to he will play the petty game of negative politics.

Posted by: h20andoil | May 7, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I don't see how this ad is negative. It uses Ehrlich's own words to show he is misleading Marylanders about how he left office. You can't say it's negative just because you don't like the facts.

Posted by: InformedMarylander | May 7, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Ehrlichs been lying about his years as governor since the day he left office and at the same time has been lying and slandering O'Malley at ever turn too.
Ehrlich is more then just your average negative campaigner, he actually taught a college course on it!

Posted by: MarilynManson | May 7, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I usually vote for democrats, and although I think he has scant chance to win, Ehrlich will get my vote. he's a moderate, and O'Malley is waaaay too liberal for me. Couldn't vote for kathleen kennedy townsend because she thinks guns commit crimes, and law abiding citizens can't be trusted with them. O'Malley thinks it's immoral to execute people who rape, torture and kill small children. Sorry, too liberal for me. In general I think the republican party is a blight on the face of America, but I can't vote for people who are opposed to citizens owning firearms or to capital punishment for those who commit atrocities against innocents.

Posted by: red2million | May 7, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

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