- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s re-election campaign signs are being systematically torn down or spray-painted with hippie-style peace symbols in Baltimore County, his home jurisdiction.

The vandalism is costly for the Ehrlich campaign because the 4-by-8-foot signs that are favored in this year’s races take up to an hour to install. Ehrlich campaign officials have not reported the damaged and missing signs to police.

“You have no way of knowing if this is an organized effort or just pranksters,” said Shareese N. DeLeaver, campaign spokeswoman for Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican. “We don’t condone or participate in the vandalism of signs, and we expect the same of our opposition.”

About a month ago, the campaign managers for Mr. Ehrlich and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, made a “gentlemen’s agreement” to respect each other’s signs.

“That gentlemanly agreement is in place,” O’Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said. “We don’t condone the defacing of road signs.”

He said O’Malley signs throughout the state also have been vandalized.

“We’ve had a number of people tell us that they put signs and they are torn down repeatedly.”

Miss DeLeaver and Mr. Abbruzzese both noted that political signs are knocked down or defaced in practically every election campaign.

However, the relatively widespread vandalism and repeated use of the peace symbol in Baltimore County grabbed the attention of the Ehrlich campaign, Miss DeLeaver said.

The vandalism of Ehrlich signs in other counties has occurred less frequently and in an apparently more random fashion, she said.

The peacenik attacks also appear limited to the Ehrlich campaign signs.

In an incident discovered yesterday morning, two large Ehrlich signs on the corner of Falls and Broadway roads in Brooklynville were removed. An orange peace sign was spray-painted on the plywood board that had supported the campaign sign.

The vandals did not disturb a large campaign sign on the same plywood board that bore the names of Delegates Susan L.M. Aumann and William J. Frank, both Baltimore County Republicans seeking re-election.

The vandals also did not tamper with nearby signs promoting the re-election of Baltimore County Sheriff R. Jay Fisher, a Democrat, and Baltimore County Council member T. Bryan McIntire, a Republican.

Baltimore County is a battleground in the governor’s race.

It is the state’s third most populated jurisdiction behind Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Baltimore County also mirrors Maryland’s voter registration profile, with about twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

In 2002, Mr. Ehrlich won Baltimore County, with more than 61 percent of the vote. He built his political career in the county as a state delegate and congressman.

But many county residents closely identify with Baltimore and its mayor — even if they long ago abandoned the city in search of safer neighborhoods and better public schools.

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