For Maryland TV viewers, the blitz is about to start.
Democratic gubernatorial rivals Douglas F. Gansler and Anthony G. Brown announced Wednesday that they have bought time on local stations and will launch television ad campaigns over the next two days. It is the beginning of what is certain to become a drumbeat of 60-second spots that will continue through primary day June 24, at a cost running into millions of dollars in both the Baltimore and Washington media markets.
A third Democrat in the race for governor, Del. Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County, is using public financing and is operating on a much tighter budget.
Both the Brown and Gansler campaigns will start out on the positive side, running ads introducing themselves to Democratic voters who might not be familiar with their life stories and political careers.
Gansler will go first, going on the air Thursday in both Baltimore and Washington with a self-narrated spot that recounts highlights of his career in public office, as attorney general the last eight years and as the Montgomery County state's attorney before that.
"I take on tough fights and get things done for the people of Maryland," Gansler says, laying claim to accomplishments on the environment, foreclosure relief and same-sex marriage.
Brown's ad will begin running Friday, said campaign manager Justin Schall. He declined to tip his hand on where the ads would be running.
In his ad, Brown takes a more personal biographical approach, highlighting his family story and a "lifetime of service to our nation and our state."
As images of a younger Brown in Army uniform flash by, a voice-over says Brown chose military service over Wall Street when coming out of college. Brown himself describes being called to duty in Iraq at age 43 while serving in the House of Delegates.
"I knew that if I didn't serve, it would be somebody else's mother or father or brother or sister or son or daughter," Brown says.
The ratcheted-up media campaign is bringing no pause in retail politics.
The Democratic candidates appeared at an education forum Wednesday night at City Springs Elementary/Middle School in East Baltimore.
Gansler, Brown and Mizeur all pledged to help the city complete the second phase of its 10-year-school construction plan. The plan is now funded with $1.1 billion for its first phase, but leaves 100 buildings with unfunded rebuilding and renovations.
"We'll fight for it, and make sure it happens," Gansler said. He added that the money to pay for the state aid would come from improving the economy by bringing back jobs, fixing problems in procurement of government contracts and increased government efficiency.
Brown said he wants to expedite a study of the adequacy and equity of the state's funding formula for aid to education. He said he wants to determine which local jurisdictions are tapping into their own resources to support schools. He said he believes Baltimore is "tapping into its capacity, but that capacity is not necessarily enough."
Mizeur said she has proposed a commission to scrutinize the funding formula to ensure that factors such as the number of students from low-income families and students who speak English as a second language are sufficiently considered.
Meanwhile, at a Baltimore Sun Newsmakers Forum on Wednesday, Republican candidate Ron George pledged to cut property and equipment taxes on manufacturing to spark a revival of that sector, particularly in Baltimore. He said he would cut in half the property tax for factories and exempt manufacturing equipment from that tax entirely. Those levies, he said, give Maryland the highest taxes on manufacturers in the country.
George, a state delegate from Anne Arundel County, pledged to put a top priority on reclaiming old Baltimore factory sites for new manufacturing ventures. However, George said he would expect Baltimore to offer manufacturers property tax breaks to make the city more attractive.
"I want to be a governor for everybody. Baltimore is a big part of Maryland," he said.
He predicted his plan to boost Baltimore would find support all over the state.
"If you build a tax base in Baltimore, these other jurisdictions keep more of their money home," he said. "Now everyone in the state is giving to Baltimore."