- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The gloves came off even before the bell rang this week in the Democratic primary contest for Maryland governor.

On the eve of Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s scheduled announcement of his candidacy today, potential Democratic challenger Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan delivered an especially critical attack.

The Duncan campaign circulated a flier that accused Mr. O’Malley of breaking his promise to quit his Irish rock band, O’Malley’s March, and faulted him for performing while the city’s homicide rate continues to be high.

Mr. O’Malley was “strumming the night away as his crime-plagued city lost another life to violence,” the flier stated. “Just hours before the mayor would take time from the pressing business of running Baltimore, a 56-year-old man was beaten to death with a cane, the city’s 195th homicide of the year.”

The campaign also issued a fact sheet pointing out Baltimore’s high homicide rate, dwindling population, high property-tax rate and struggling public-school system.

Mr. Duncan plans to publicly announce his candidacy late next month.

Mr. O’Malley, whom Time magazine this year named one of the nation’s five best big-city mayors, is leading Mr. Duncan in recent polls. However, polls by the Duncan campaign have shown that its candidate gaining on the mayor.

If Mr. Duncan and Mr. O’Malley declare their candidacy, they will challenge Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, in next year’s general election.

The potential races are being billed as among the most competitive in recent memory.

The flier, titled “Martin O’Malley: The Boy in the Band,” also includes a photograph of Mr. O’Malley on stage wearing sunglasses and a sleeveless T-shirt while playing a guitar and singing into a microphone.

In March, Mr. O’Malley announced that he would no longer perform regularly with his band, which has been on the Baltimore-area music scene since 1989.

He said his intentions were to focus his “creative energies” on the job of mayor. Mr. O’Malley has since performed occasionally, including a show Monday and one Sept. 16 that are cited on the flier.

“Now Mayor Martin O’Malley wants a promotion to a job with even greater responsibility, yet he just can’t seem to give up the band gig,” the flier continues.

O’Malley campaign manager Jonathan A. Epstein declined to respond to the criticism in the flier.

“Our campaign is not focused on name-calling,” he said. “It is focused on moving the state forward and making Maryland stronger. The progress the people of Baltimore have made shows what you can accomplish working together.”

Duncan campaign manager Scott B. Arceneaux said the flier raised legitimate questions about whether Mr. O’Malley possessed the “laser-like commitment” necessary to run state government.

“These are serious issues,” he said. “Baltimore, the city of which he is mayor, has serious problems.”

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