- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

Having frittered away a 15-point lead in the polls over Rep. Robert Ehrlich, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is going negative in a big way blanketing the airwaves with political ads aimed at caricaturing Mr. Ehrlich as an extremist. In doing so, pro-Townsend forces including the Maryland State Teachers Association, the Service Employees International Union, AFSCME and the state League of Conservation Voters have taken major liberties with the facts, particularly when it comes to Mr. Ehrlich's congressional voting record.

Despite a huge body of economic studies showing that increases in the minimum wage take entry-level jobs away from poor, minority teen-agers, AFSCME has been running TV ads denouncing Mr. Ehrlich for voting against increases in the minimum wage. One of the pro-Townsend ads points out that Mr. Ehrlich's voting record received a poor grade from the National Educational Association (yes, the same NEA that advocated a curriculum which avoided blaming Islamic terrorism for the September 11 attacks).

A radio spot by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and a group called the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative asserts that Mr. Ehrlich would be "hazardous" to the health of Marylanders, apparently because he opposes increasing tobacco taxes and opposed a new federal prescription drug entitlement. In reality, Mr. Ehrlich backed a Republican program (which passed the House) that would cost approximately $350 billion over the next decade. But the ad lambastes Mr. Ehrlich for failing to support an $800 billion alternative being promoted by Democrats.

Mrs. Townsend's campaign has begun airing a TV ad claiming that Mr. Ehrlich "talks about crime, but voted against putting 100,000 new police on our streets." In fact, the 100,000 cops were never anything more than a creation of the Clinton administration spin machine. At least three studies suggest that the actual number was less than 60,000. Both the liberal Urban Institute and the conservative Heritage Foundation put it at less than 58,000.

While Mrs. Townsend and her political allies have been inundating the airwaves with misinformation, they have also been trying to silence Mr. Ehrlich when he makes important substantive points. For example, Mr. Ehrlich ran a commercial criticizing Maryland's dominant Democratic Party for corruption. When the Townsend campaign demanded that the ads be pulled, the Ehrlich campaign fired back with a series of ethical questions that have plagued the Democratic ruling class in Annapolis since Parris Glendening was first elected governor in 1994 among them the ongoing investigation into the state crime-control office headed by Mrs. Townsend and an SEC investigation into the financial dealings of the chairman of the state university system's board of regents, a longtime ally of the Glendening-Townsend administration.

Should the Democrats grow increasingly desperate in the coming weeks, Mr. Ehrlich will have to continue to play this sort of political hardball over and over again.

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