A 60-second television commercial promoting Baltimore County's recycling effort that ends with the words "Roger B. Hayden, county executive," has sparked a barrage of charges from Mr. Hayden's political challengers.
Coming two months before the September primary election and two months after Mr. Hayden left the public eye temporarily for brain surgery, the timing prompted his opponents to remind him that he had criticized such publicity when he ran in 1990.
"This was a paid political ad, paid for by the taxpayers of Baltimore County," said Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, a Pikesville Democrat who is running for the county executive's job.
Mr. Mintz contended that the ad clearly links Mr. Hayden's name to "lovely shots" of Baltimore County's most attractive recreational areas.
But Mr. Hayden -- and his Republican backers on the County Council -- defended the commercial.
"I spent my time cutting myself out of it," Mr. Hayden said yesterday. He said the original proposal called for him to speak on-camera for 14 seconds. He rejected that, he said, but thought that mentioning his name would reduce viewer confusion about which jurisdiction was being discussed.
"Frequently people get mixed-up between Baltimore City and Baltimore County," Mr. Hayden said.
Mr. Hayden, who has been out of the office since May 8 when a blood vessel burst in his head, underwent surgery May 23 and is expected to return on a part-time basis Monday.
Mr. Mintz and another Hayden challenger, Cockeysville Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, a 3rd District Democrat, voted to approve the $59,000 that paid for the commercial in the 1994-1995 budget. They said yesterday that they favor recycling but oppose advertising Mr. Hayden in connection with it.
"I have a serious problem in Roger Hayden using taxpayers' money to promote his candidacy two months before the primary election," Mr. Ruppersberger said. He and Mr. Mintz said the Hayden administration never had advertised any public service so extensively before.
Retired District Judge John C. Coolahan of Arbutus, another Democratic candidate for county executive, said his campaign will not be able to afford television advertising.
"Sure, I object," he said of the recycling commercial. But he noted, "It's the power of incumbency."
Donald Brewer, the executive's opponent in the Republican primary and a former Hayden campaign worker, said the commercial is the kind of subtle political advertising that Mr. Hayden pledged to eliminate when he ran against incumbent Democrat Dennis F. Rasmussen in 1990.