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First Click, Maryland
There are facts, and then there are campaign ads

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Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010:

The Agenda

"The trouble with facts is that there are so many of them."
-- Samuel McChord Crothers

WagnerAs television ads -- both from candidates and other interested parties -- escalate in Maryland's race for governor, so too does the need for some honest refereeing of all the claims we're starting to hear.

The media's task this year has been complicated by the nature of the race. Usually, ads make representations about a candidate's record that are either largely supported by the facts or not. However, with an incumbent governor facing his immediate predecessor, there's an added wrinkle: who deserves credit (or blame, for that matter).

Tuition freeze ad.jpgThis morning, we'll explore one example. Among the education accomplishments that Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) touts in his new ad airing in the Washington media market: "We've frozen college tuition for four years in a row."

On Tuesday, Henry Fawell, communications director for former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called that claim "highly misleading" and said it is the latest example of O'Malley trying to take credit for "Ehrlich achievements."

Fawell's rationale: The first year of the freeze was enacted while Ehrlich was governor.

In one sense, Fawell is absolutely right. The four-year freeze started in 2006, the final full year of Ehrlich's term.

O'Malley continued the freeze for the first three years of his governorship. In his final year, O'Malley proposed a state budget that allowed tuition at University System of Maryland campuses to rise by 3 percent for in-state undergraduate students. University regents -- who actually set tuition rates -- did what O'Malley anticipated.

But how much credit does Ehrlich deserve for the freeze? During the first three years of his tenure, university tuition rose by 40 percent at some campuses (a point O'Malley is highlighting in a different ad). In his final year as governor, Ehrlich's budget proposal was built on the assumption that tuition would rise about another 4.5 percent.

O'Malley, then the mayor of Baltimore and a Democratic candidate for governor, pressed a tuition freeze as a campaign issue -- a bid which was initially dismissed by an Ehrlich spokeswoman as trying to "one-up the governor" with an "election-year gimmick."

In an election-year legislative session, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly set aside $18.5 million in the state budget to make the freeze possible, and Ehrlich agreed to it.

So is that really an Ehrlich "achievement?" Or did O'Malley start achieving things before he took office?

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Unemployment data undercut O'Malley campaign message
o'malley-serious.JPGFederal unemployment data released Wednesday showed that despite a higher rate of job growth than in most other states, Maryland lost a net 5,700 jobs in August, undercutting one of Gov. Martin O'Malley's favorite campaign lines that the state has experienced five straight months of job gains. Maryland's unemployment rate also rose from 7.1 percent to 7.3 percent. For the first time since the spring, O'Malley (D) did not rush out a statement touting the monthly release. Rather his press office announced the launch of a new state Web site to help Marylanders find jobs. Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich (R) seized on the report saying that it "reaffirms that the O'Malley administration simply doesn't understand how to create jobs for Maryland families." -- Aaron C. Davis

National Democratic governors group returns fire on Ehrlich
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Ehrlich hand.jpg"That didn't take long. Less than 24 hours after the Republican Governors Association launched an ad attacking Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) for raising taxes, the Democratic Governors Association returned fire on Wednesday with a commercial against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R)," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis. "The Democratic ad paints Ehrlich as a shill for big business, banks and other special interests, both during his term as governor, as well as in the four years since, when he worked for a North Carolina law and lobbying firm. The dueling independent expenditures mean there are now three commercials on the Maryland governor's race airing in the pricey Washington region where just a day ago there were none. It also shows Democrats intend to return with force to a theme of challenging Ehrlich about the still unknown list of clients he served since leaving office."

Green candidate for Senate dies from bike accident injuries
Pettigrew.jpg"A 30-year-old Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate died late Monday night, less than two days after she was hit by a car while riding her bicycle in the Largo area, authorities said," write The Post's Josh White and Matt Zapotosky. "Maryland State Police said Natasha Pettigrew died at a Prince George's Hospital Center at 10:30 p.m. Monday. She had been critically injured on Route 202 about 5:30 a.m. Sunday while training for a triathlon, police said. In a statement, Maryland Green Party co-chairman Brian Bittner said that Pettigrew had 'incredible potential as a future leader for this party and this state' and that the Green Party had 'never experienced a loss like this.' "

Quotables

"The premiere development opportunity in the United States."
-- Steven Goldin, director of real estate for Metro, describing 39 acres in New Carrollton for which his agency and the state of Maryland are seeking a private partner to transform into what could be the largest development in Prince George's County since National Harbor

Thumbnail image for Jim Smith.jpg"I served with the previous governor who NEVER returned my phone calls during his last three years in office. NOT ONCE! Martin O'Malley always calls back."
-- Outgoing Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.(D) on a campaign door hanger for Gov. Martin O'Malley's reelection being distributed in Baltimore County, as reported by The Baltimore Sun.

williamcampbell.jpg"I know this is going to come back to haunt me, but they said they can't give me anything."
-- Republican Comptroller candidate William H. Campbell, who said the state party has told him they will provide no financial backing in his bid against incumbent Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), as quoted in the Gazette

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Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics each weekday. You can also find First Click on Facebook and Twitter.

By John Wagner  | September 22, 2010; 6:40 AM ET
Categories:  First Click, John Wagner  
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Next: First Click, Maryland:
Police union endorses Ehrlich in Md. Gov's race

Comments

Seriously? One of the candidates for U.S. Senate dies, and you still lead with yet another he-said-he-said story about Ehrlich and O'Malley?

Natasha Pettigrew, R.I.P.

Posted by: mgrannis | September 22, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

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