District 12 delegate candidate Brian Bailey has been charged with a criminal election law violation after a website allegedly created by his campaign to criticize an opponent was discovered not to have an accurate authority line, State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt announced Monday.
According to Davitt, Bailey, a Democrat from Lansdowne, allegedly registered the domain name DongarraForDelegate.com, where he posted "derogatory campaign material" about Rebecca Dongarra, a Catonsville Democrat running for one of three open seats in the district, which stretches from Catonsville to Columbia, covering parts of Howard and Baltimore counties.
While election law requires that candidates tag campaign material with an authority line complete with name and address, the website instead stated that "this message has not been authorized or approved by any candidate," according to Davitt. The website had been taken down as of Monday afternoon.
When asked for comment on the charge, Bailey acknowledged via email that his campaign had "misapplied an innacurate authority line on a campaign website which failed to properly credit me with ownership and knowledge.
"However," he continued, "I fully stand behind its contents. My legal counsel and I are reviewing the specific charges against me and are expecting this issue to be adjudicated in the District Court of Maryland following the Primary Election. My campaign is about strengthening our economy, protecting society’s vulnerable and investing in our future. I won’t be distracted from working for middle class families, small businesses, senior citizens, veterans, and for everyday folks, ensuring they receive the representation they deserve and expect."
Reached by phone Monday, Dongarra said she was familiar with the website and initially thought it might have been sponsored by a special interest group. "Quite frankly, I’m shocked that Brian is behind it," she said of discovering Bailey is allegedly behind the site. "It’s terribly disappointing, is what it is."
Bailey and Dongarra are among 10 candidates in the crowded Democratic primary race, which includes seven candidates from Baltimore County vying to represent a district in which Howard County residents are a slight majority.
This is not the first time Bailey and Dongarra have been opponents: the two ran against each other four years ago in the Democratic primary for the District 1 seat on the Baltimore County Council. Dongarra finished second in that race, garnering 24.8 percent of the vote compared with Bailey's 17.3 percent. Both finished behind Catonsville small business owner Tom Quirk, who went on to win the general election, as well.
Dongarra said this was the first time an opponent had created a negative website aimed at her.
A court date had not yet been determined as of Monday afternoon. The maximum penalty for the violation is one year and/or a $1,000 fine, according to Davitt, who said his office first learned of the site through a phone call complaint. This is the first time Bailey has been charged with an election law violation, he said.
The primary election is June 24, while early voting begins June 12.