- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Republican Party has upped the ante in the battle over Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s vetoes, announcing yesterday it would run radio and print ads targeting three Anne Arundel County Democratic senators in the hope they would support the governor on two key bills when the votes are cast Tuesday.

John Kane, state Republican Party chairman, wouldn’t give details on the advertising campaign except to say that the ads would run on radio stations and in publications in the districts of the three senators.

Asked about the cost, he said it would be less than the 66,000 votes by which Mr. Ehrlich won the 2002 gubernatorial election.

The advertisements focus on two bills — the medical-malpractice insurance reform bill and a bill to limit increases in college tuition to 5 percent a year for three years. Mr. Kane said both vetoes should be sustained because one bill includes a 2 percent health maintenance organization (HMO) premium tax to underwrite insurance premiums for doctors, and the other includes a three-year, 10 percent surcharge on the corporate income tax to help pay for a guaranteed 5 percent increase in state aid to colleges and universities.

Mr. Kane said the purpose of the ads is to persuade the targeted lawmakers to hold out against “the heavy-handed and overbearing liberal leadership” of House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who are supporting an override of both vetoes.

The advertisements mention by names James E. DeGrange Sr., Philip C. Jimeno and John C. Astle.

“I don’t know what they think they’ll accomplish by this kind of tactic. Intimidation doesn’t work with me, if that’s what their plan is,” Mr. DeGrange said.

He said he will vote to override the veto of the medical-malpractice bill.

“We have a crisis. We’ve addressed it,” Mr. DeGrange said.

He said it was reasonable to require HMOs to pay the same 2 percent tax on premiums that is paid by all other insurance companies.

Mr. DeGrange said he already had decided to vote to sustain the other veto because Mr. Ehrlich has promised to increase higher-education funding in the budget he will submit to the legislature later this month, and because he is concerned about the impact of the tax on businesses.

Mr. Jimeno said he is inclined to vote to override the veto of the medical-malpractice bill and criticized Republicans for putting out what he said is misleading information about taxes.

Mr. Jimeno said he would make up his mind about the higher-education bill after seeing what the governor does in the way of increasing aid to higher education.

Mr. Jimeno said it is unfortunate that Republicans are targeting senators who have worked with the administration over the past two years, supporting his nominees for state offices and helping kill bills opposed by the governor, such as legislation that would have expended the state’s ban on the sale of some semiautomatic rifles.

Mr. Astle was out of town and not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Busch, who also represents Anne Arundel County and was criticized in the ads, said Mr. Ehrlich “is just masking his inability to govern by running campaign ads.”

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