State Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski is attacking again.
In the latest of a series of hard-hitting radio ads, Mr. Miedusiewski lampoons the front-running Democratic candidate for governor, Parris N. Glendening, suggesting that he was the Barney Fife of law enforcement.
The radio spot, which begins airing today statewide for eight days, spoofs Mr. Glendening's days as a Hyattsville councilman in 1973 and 1974, when he also served as police commissioner, overseeing a department that numbered 20 at the time.
Mr. Glendening, now the Prince George's county executive, bills himself as a "former police commissioner" on his resume and in political literature.
But Mr. Miedusiewski, a Baltimore Democrat also running for governor, calls the label misleading, and he is attempting to use it to chip away at Mr. Glendening's credibility.
When the radio spot begins, the announcer notes that Mr. Glendening says he was a "police commissioner" and that some people have said he carried a gun and a badge -- "just like Barney Fife," the goofy deputy sheriff played by pop-eyed comedian Don Knotts on the old Andy Griffith sitcom.
The ad cuts to what sounds like Andy Griffith show's theme song, with its familiar whistling and finger-snaps.
"Andy, how do you load this gosh-darned thing?" asks a twangy would-be Barney. "Hey, Opie, gimme back my bullets."
The 60-second spot, produced by Politics Inc. of Washington, then promotes Mr. Miedusiewski's anti-crime plan, which calls for more police officers, more prisons, boot camps for juvenile offenders and no parole for violent criminals.
It finally returns to the mock theme song and the mock Barney Fife saying, "Andy where do the bullets go again?"
David Seldin, Mr. Glendening's campaign press secretary, sounded mildly irritated when told of the latest ad -- the third in Mr. Miedusiewski's series. The first two spoofed "The Love Boat" and "Dragnet."
"What TV show are we this time?" Mr. Seldin asked.
Andy of Mayberry, he was told.
"Oh, my God," he muttered, sighing heavily.
"He used that Barney Fife line at a forum last month and got booed and hissed," Mr. Seldin said. "I think that shows that people are tired of this kind of negative, politics-as-usual kind of campaign," he said.
Mr. Seldin said that while Mr. Glendening did carry a badge while police commissioner, he passed up the opportunity to carry a gun.
"Miedusiewski's negative tactics are not working," he said.
"He spent $100,000 in the last month trying to bring us down, and Parris went up 7 points in the polls . . . from 31 percent to 38 percent," he said.
At the same time, however, Mr. Miedusiewski more than doubled his standings in the polls, leapfrogging over two other Democrats to second place, with 16 percent of the voters behind vTC him.
"It's not negative. It's satirical, but creative," the state senator said in his defense.
Mr. Seldin also defended Mr. Glendening's record on crime.
"He increased the size of the Prince George's County police force by 40 percent, built a state-of-the-art new jail, and we're in the process of building the first county-run boot camp in the state," he said.
"The only record American Joe has on crime was voting to let criminals keep their assault weapons," he said, referring to Mr. Miedusiewki's vote against an assault weapons ban proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer during the last session of the Maryland General Assembly.
"People know that Parris has the best plan on crime, that's why he's been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police," Mr. Seldin said.
Hyattsville Mayor Thomas L. Bass, a Glendening supporter who served on the City Council with him, acknowledged that the executive was not an actual law enforcement officer but had responsibility for the department's budget, citizen complaints and general oversight.
"Sure, it's not the police chief," Mr. Bass said. "In Baltimore City, the police commissioner is the police chief, but it's not that [in Hyattsville]. The difference was the police chief here was an actual working police officer; the police commissioner was more of an administrative position."