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First Click, Maryland -- It's getting nasty out there

First Click

Your morning download of Maryland political news

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Thursday, September 9, 2010:

The Agenda

Aaron.jpgT-minus five days to Maryland's primary. Which candidates will get your vote? If you've been piling up the campaign mail and planning to go through it all at once before Tuesday, you may want to put on rubber gloves and a mask, or at least have a plan to get to fresh air quickly afterward.

The campaign rhetoric is turning toxic, perhaps nowhere more so than in a series of Maryland General Assembly contests "in which civil debate has been replaced by civil war," as my colleague John Wagner writes in today's Post.

"In eight primaries that will be settled Tuesday -- including four in Montgomery -- incumbent state senators are being challenged by current or former delegates from their district. And most of these races haven't been pretty."

If you live in the jigsaw-shaped District 39, in central or northern Montgomery County, you'll find in that stack of mail a photo of Del. Saqib Ali, sacked out on a couch in the State House courtesy of the campaign of incumbent Sen. Nancy J. King.

The photo is one of many in the race that have overshadowed policy disagreements between the two candidates. King tells Wagner the photo of Ali sleeping was intended to highlight votes he has missed, "This is the nastiest race I've ever been in," she said. "I've never had to resort to this stuff before, but you have to defend yourself."

There's also little nice being said in two Democratic primaries in Prince George's that fit the same pattern of delegate challenging senator: Del. Joanne C. Benson is trying to unseat longtime Sen. Nathaniel Exum; and Del. Victor R. Ramirez, a two-term House member, is hoping to knock off David C. Harrington, a former County Council member appointed to the Senate in 2008.

"A couple of Republicans are trying to pull off the same feat: House Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank is gambling his seat on a bid against longtime Sen. Donald F. Munson in Washington County; and Del. James J. King is among those gunning for appointed Sen. Edward R. Reilly in Anne Arundel."

And in Baltimore, watch out for this ad: "On one side, the mailing from Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz shows an offshore oil rig engulfed in flames. The text says the Gulf of Mexico disaster is going to cost BP billions," reports The Baltimore sun.

"On the other side is an image of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. If the disaster happened here, the flier claims, Joseph Bartenfelder would cap BP's liability at $10 million -- 'And we would be left to clean up the mess.'

"Kamenetz's shot at his fellow Democrat's environmental record as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates is powerful, but also misleading," reports The Sun's Arthur Hirsch.

So throw away the mailers, go online and Google the races?

Careful, you may only find more of the same. A Maryland Politics Watch item about the shade of Ali's skin in King's latest mailers has been picked up by The Huffington Post.

There are "questions over whether the incumbent put out a campaign mailer deliberately darkening the skin of her South Asian opponent," writes Amanda Terkel.

"A new King mailer attacks Ali (who Terkel notes is of Pakistani and Indian descent) for taking "special interest PAC and corporate money." The mailer features two images of the candidate; they appear to be the same but flipped vertically. The site Maryland Politics Watch notices, however, that in the second image, "[e]very aspect of Ali...his hair, his skin, his five-o'clock shadow, his tie and his suit -- is darker."

Saqib Photoshop.JPGMaryland Politics Watch blogger Adam Pagnucco posted the side-by-side comparison of the two Ali photos (left), and the original mailers on his Web site.

Brace yourself; this may be just the beginning. There are indications the nasty will continue into November. The Maryland Democratic party Wednesday posted this headline about early voting opponent former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr (R) deciding to take advantage and vote Thursday: "Breaking: Ehrlich to commit 'fraud' tomorrow."

--Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

Maryland firefighters funding MoCo race
election2010.gifIf you missed it Wednesday, check out this report by The Post's Michael Laris on state firefighters sending a message this campaign season. "Firefighters from Baltimore and Prince George's County have been pouring money in Montgomery County council races adding last-minute support to local union brothers who lost out on large raises this year because of Montgomery's budget squeeze."

Prince George's judge blocks 'misleading' flier
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," writes The Post's Miranda Spivack.

Today on line

Check The Washington Post's local home page later today for links to our full voter's guide to Tuesday's primary.


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each Monday and Thursday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of a top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And other features keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  September 9, 2010; 8:37 AM ET
Categories:  First Click  
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Re: the King/Ali mailer - patently ridiculous that this is somehow racially motivated. If anyone was pre-disposed to not vote for Ali because of racism, I don't think they would have missed the fact that his name is Saqib Ali.

Posted by: tpsteele | September 9, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Somebody help me out, cause the Wapo sure has been useless. I've been barraged with campaign fliers from all the Dems in the Moco primary. They all spout the usual liberal jargon and generalities, none of them gives specifics on how they would handle massive budget deficits. So what is the difference between a Dem challenger and a Dem incumbent? Does substance on issues have any relevance in local elections anymore?

Posted by: VikingRider | September 9, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

tpsteele, yeah, but then why alter the photo? It is obvious that someone took that photo, flipped it, and darkened it. Anybody from the campaign who says they didn't is a liar. So what was the purpose of doing that?

Posted by: nuzuw | September 9, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It's obvious there are differences, but to say outright that it was intentionally darkened by the campaign is highly speculative. The better question is why would the campaign need to, and the answer is that they wouldn't.

Posted by: tpsteele | September 9, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

i don't think anyone intentionally did anything to the photo with the exception of flipping it which is commonplace in publishing - the darker look? bad printing - nothing more - anyone who has tried printing the same piece on more than one printer is victim to the same heinous outcome of colors. I wouldn't read too much into it.

Posted by: notindc1 | September 9, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

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