- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

The final week of the Maryland governor's race kicked off yesterday with a marathon of campaign appearances.
Republican nominee Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. stopped at a mental-health center in Adelphi yesterday morning to announce his proposal for a new Cabinet-level department for disability services. He then toured a church, senior housing and a business center in Baltimore, accompanied by former Republican congressman and presidential hopeful Jack Kemp.
Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spent the day on a bus tour from Baltimore to the Eastern Shore, making campaign stops in Aberdeen, Chestertown, Easton, Salisbury and Cambridge.
"As we travel across the Eastern Shore, we recognize support that reaches into all pockets of the state," said Townsend campaign spokeswoman Kate Philips, heading to Easton aboard the bus. "As the week progresses, we will work hard to reach all Marylanders with Mrs. Townsend's message on education, prescription-drug coverage and common-sense gun laws."
The bus tour will continue today with stops in Montgomery County.
The state Department of Disability Services proposed by Mr. Ehrlich would be intended to increase community-based care and decrease reliance on institutional care for the disabled. It would also expand housing opportunities and increase access to affordable health care for disabled people, he said.
"Every Marylander deserves to live with dignity and self-sufficiency, and to achieve their full potential as a citizen," Mr. Ehrlich said. "That can only happen when people with disabilities are integrated into society to the maximum extent possible."
Meanwhile, reports of campaign vandalism are increasing as the governor's race comes down to the wire.
Nearly every roadside campaign sign for Mr. Ehrlich has been hacked to pieces or set on fire in southern Prince George's County. And over the weekend, a billboard in Baltimore promoting "Democrats for Ehrlich" was smeared with gallons of pink paint.
Mrs. Townsend's campaign workers said a slew of their large signs were broken or stolen in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. Both campaigns said attacks on their signs were widespread across the state.
The Ehrlich campaign and Republican Party officials in Fort Washington, where three or four signs are destroyed on a nightly basis, said the vandalism appeared to be organized. They blamed Mrs. Townsend's campaign.
"That's absolutely untrue," Miss Philips said. "We do not support any type of vandalism, and we would certainly not direct anybody to take part in any vandalism. It's not how we do things."
The level of campaign vandalism in Prince George's County surpasses the vandalism reported in other areas.
"This is the absolute worst I've ever encountered," said Dale L. Anderson, 79, vice chairman of the Prince George's County Republican Central Committee and a candidate for delegate in the 26th District.
"They have destroyed every major sign we had up. The only thing we can do is keep putting them up," Mr. Anderson said, adding that his campaign signs were not harmed.
Only one of the 36 large Ehrlich signs in the Fort Washington area survived the past three weeks unscathed. The rest of the 4-by-8-foot signs, which cost about $80 each, were slashed and torn apart. Sometimes the lumber was broken to bits.

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