- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 12, 2002

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend aired a new advertisement yesterday slamming her opponent's record on gun control and rebuffed immediate criticism that she was politicizing the sniper shootings.

In the 30-second ad shown in the Washington-area television market, Mrs. Townsend also took Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to task for his votes in Congress on education and environmental issues.

A voice in the ad says Mr. Ehrlich voted "against banning assault weapons and cheap handguns," while the viewer is shown a row of high-powered rifles and a man pulling a handgun from his pocket.

Polls indicate that support for gun control is strong in Montgomery County, the state's most populous county and a critical region in the tightly contested gubernatorial race.

When asked about the shootings this past week, both candidates had said they would prefer not bringing politics into the issue. Earlier this week, Mrs. Townsend aides said the lieutenant governor would hold off on running ads that mentioned guns until an arrest was made.

Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurick criticized the decision to run the ad, saying it was "shameful that anyone would try to use these tragedies for political gain."

"Now's the time to lay off. There are people burying loved ones," Mr. Schurick said.

Townsend spokesman Peter Hamm defended the ad, explaining that gun issues were already a part of the campaign and likely would continue to be even if the shootings had not occurred.

"I don't think that the Maryland people think it's shameful to point out really the difference between the two candidates running for governor on important matters of public policy that are debated all the time," Mr. Hamm said.

Mr. Hamm also noted that Rep. Constance A. Morella, a centrist Republican who represents Montgomery County, has been running ads the past two weeks touting her gun-control record. Mr. Schurick countered that Mrs. Morella's ad was significantly different in tone because it expressed her position and not her opponent's.

Mrs. Townsend supports most forms of gun control. As a congressman, Mr. Ehrlich voted in 1996 to repeal an assault-weapon ban passed two years earlier.

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