- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

ANNAPOLIS, Md. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s letter seeking funds for a potential gubernatorial bid has created a stir in Maryland political circles because of personal comments aimed at Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
"I grew up in a row house, not a castle in Camelot," the Republican said in an appeal for campaign donations. "To me, public service is not just some personal family legacy to pursue."
Both comments are clear references to Mrs. Townsend's privileged upbringing in the Kennedy family.
Herb Smith, a political-science professor at Western Maryland College, said the letter contained "a surprisingly bitter personal line of attack on Kathleen."
Democrats also condemned the tone of the letter. House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. called it "an anti-Townsend campaign rather than a pro-Ehrlich campaign, which is extremely offensive and disappointing to me."
Supporters of Mr. Ehrlich dismissed the comments as nothing more than heated rhetoric commonly used by both parties to raise money.
Paul Herrnson, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, agreed with that assessment.
"The letter clearly has inflammatory language designed to motivate die-hard Republican voters, which is very typical of a fund-raising letter," Mr. Herrnson said. "I would view this as a fund-raising letter geared toward ideologues."
Paul Schurick, Mr. Ehrlich's top campaign aide, said he is sure Democrats "will be the first to acknowledge that they use the same kind of inflammatory rhetoric in their letters."
"I saw one recently targeting [Sen.] Andy Harris that was brutal," Mr. Schurick said. "It was targeting liberal Democratic donors, and that gave them license to put in some incredibly inflammatory rhetoric."
Mr. Harris, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, represents a Baltimore County district that Democrats think they have a chance to win next year.
Mr. Schurick agreed with Mr. Herrnson's assessment of the letter.
"That rhetoric is reserved for fund-raising purposes among Republican donors," Mr. Schurick says. "You don't see that in the course of a campaign and you won't see it."
Mrs. Townsend has not announced her candidacy, but she clearly is running for governor and is expected to be the Democratic nominee. Although Mr. Ehrlich's letter castigated Democrats in general, it concentrated its fire on Mrs. Townsend and Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
The letter used terms such as "100 percent liberal," "the corruption of one-party control" and "social engineering" to describe the Glendening-Townsend administration and portrayed Maryland as a state on the road to financial ruin as a result of the administration's policies.
But the comments concerning Mrs. Townsend's family connections and the intimation that, to her, elective office is just "some personal family legacy to pursue" were the source of controversy.
Mrs. Townsend's father, uncles and cousins have held high public offices from the presidency on down. Her father, Robert Kennedy, and her uncle, President John F. Kennedy, were both killed by assassins.
"Attacking the Kennedy tradition of public service, which has cost the family two people, to me was a very low blow," Mr. Smith said.
"The attack on the Kennedy legacy was probably raw meat to some conservative types," he said.
Mr. Ehrlich told his principal financial backers on Sept. 21 that he would run for governor if they could guarantee he would be able to raise enough money to run a competitive campaign against Mrs. Townsend. He set a target of $2 million by the end of the year.
Mrs. Townsend's most recent campaign report, filed 10 months ago, said she had raised about $2.5 million. The next report is due in November.

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