A flier distributed by Sheila Dixon's campaign offers rides to early voting locations.
A flier distributed by Sheila Dixon's campaign offers rides to early voting locations. (HANDOUT)

Supporters of state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh say her chief rival in the race for mayor is providing snacks to voters they're busing to the polls.

Similiarly, former Mayor Sheila Dixon's campaign has said Pugh's campaign is running a vote-buying scheme in which they provide rides and free food to job applicants.


But prominent Baltimore attorney William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr. — a Pugh supporter — says it is Dixon who is "overtly" providing incentives to voters. Maryland election law prohibits the use of "force, threat, menace, intimidation, bribery, reward or offer of reward" to influence voters.

Murphy pointed to a flier circulated by the Dixon campaign that promised "snacks and drinks will be provided" at Stadium Place, where seniors could get rides to early-voting sites Monday and Tuesday.

"They are offering free snacks and drinks to the voters just to take them to the polls," Murphy said, defending Pugh's practices.

The senator's campaign has offered food and bus rides to people who applied to work for her campaign. The job candidates were asked to sign release forms to indicate they understood the rides were voluntary.

The rides were offered because many of the candidates would be working during the primary, and unable to get to their local precinct to vote, according to Pugh's campaign.

Murphy said the Dixon campaign's accusations were "silly."

"All the Pugh campaign did was make sure people who were working all day long for her got fed," he said.

The Dixon campaign defended the rides and snacks it provided, saying water and a protein snack were set out in a basket at the meeting location for the seniors, in case they needed it for "medication or nourishment."

Martha McKenna, a spokeswoman for Dixon, accused the Pugh campaign of breaking Maryland law.

"The Pugh campaign must immediately stop shuttling job applicants to the polls as a part of their hiring process," McKenna said.

Complaints about Pugh's actions were sent to State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt, who said Wednesday he could neither confirm, nor deny any investigations.

Pugh also has asked Davitt to examine whether Dixon workers and supporters are intimidating voters. The Pugh campaign accused Dixon's of recording voters with their mobile phones and shouting, "How much did you get paid to come and vote," and similar statements.

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said it is unlikely any official ruling could be made about whether the actions of either campaign rises to the level of an election law violation before Tuesday's primary.

And, especially so close to the election, Kromer said she questions whether the substance of the recent accusations between Pugh and Dixon will resonate with voters.


"Is this inside baseball stuff? Is this something that actually matters to the rank-and-file voter?" she said.

Herb Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College, said the cross accusations are a result of the competitive match up between Pugh and Dixon. Pugh had 31 percent, compared to Dixon's 25 percent in a recent poll conducted for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore.

Lawyer Elizabeth Embry polled a distant third, followed by businessman David Warnock and City Councilman Carl Stokes.

"There is so much dead-reckoning in a race like this, the field is so fractured," Smith said. "The campaigns know that any chance and any opportunity to deflect the energy and focus of an opposing campaign has to be seized on."

The flier distributed by Dixon shows the former mayor's name on a bold red stripe, along with Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who is running for re-election in North Baltimore's 14th District.

Clarke, who endorsed Dixon, said she gave permission to have her name added to a Dixon flier to give seniors rides to the polls, but said she never saw it and did not know snacks were being provided.

"I just gave my permission for it," she said Wednesday. "I didn't know that was on there."

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.