- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

It has become a one-sided war of words: Fat. Old-fashioned. Little prissy miss. Mother Hubbard. Looks like a man.

In his re-election bid, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, 84, has unleashed a torrent of gibes against his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, 62.

Mr. Schaefer, a former governor and Baltimore mayor, is known for his maverick politics and cantankerous personality, but his recent remarks threaten to alienate voters, particularly women.

Yesterday, a group dubbed “Women Against Schaefer” issued an open letter urging voters to reject the longtime Maryland politician, calling him “the worst kind of sexist dinosaur.”

Karen M. White, the national political director for Emily’s list, which raises funds for female candidates, said she and other signers plan to reach thousands of voters via a chain of e-mails before Tuesday’s primary election.

Schaefer campaign manager Laslo Boyd said the comptroller has expressed frustration with Mrs. Owens because “the whole theme of her campaign has been: He’s too old.”

Still, Mr. Schaefer’s stinging criticisms of Mrs. Owens could hurt his re-election bid.

“William Donald Schaefer has been an institution in Maryland, so it’s hard to predict,” said Ariana Kelly, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. “But in my conversations with female voters across the state, I have been hearing a lot of frustration and embarrassment that a statewide elected leader is acting this way toward women.”

Mr. Schaefer has led every poll on the race for the Democratic nomination for comptroller, usually by double digits. But the most recent poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies showed Mrs. Owens had closed to within four percentage points of Mr. Schaefer.

He had 34 percent of the vote; Mrs. Owens had 30 percent; Delegate Peter Franchot of Montgomery County had 15 percent; and 21 percent were undecided.

Last week, Mr. Schaefer’s campaign aired a radio ad in which the comptroller apologized for having said “some things I shouldn’t.”

Longtime Schaefer supporters stood by the man, who once used the slogan “He says what you think” as his campaign motto.

“Through the course of things, he has said some things that are not politically correct. But he is still a good performing public servant,” said state Sen. George W. Della Jr., who served on the Baltimore City Council when Mr. Schaefer was mayor.

“Everyone gets caught up in this political correctness. Look at the qualifications of people,” Mr. Della said. “As long as someone can continue to do a job, what difference does it make how old you are?”

In Maryland’s Democratic primary for attorney general, the two candidates also are waging a war of words.

Stuart O. Simms, a former state corrections chief and former Baltimore prosecutor, went on the offensive this week to cut into Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler’s lead in the polls and fundraising.

Mr. Simms said Mr. Gansler made “inappropriate” statements to the press. Mr. Simms accused Mr. Gansler of recently defending comments he made to reporters about cases in 2000 and 2001, when he discussed a confession by one suspect and talked about another suspect’s involvement in a crime.

In 2003, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, reprimanded Mr. Gansler for the comments.

Mr. Simms called on Mr. Gansler to “admit that his previous actions described by the courts as ‘unethical’ were wrong and pledge himself to stop making inappropriate statements about pending cases.”

Mr. Gansler responded angrily to Mr. Simms’ attacks this week, calling them “disappointing.”

The winner of the primary will face Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott L. Rolle, the only Republican running for attorney general.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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