Campaign Censor?


Message to front-running Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parris Glendening: Get a sense of humor. Message to Vera P. Hall, who chairs the state Democratic Party: Don't try to play censor in this year's primary elections.

The two messages are related. Mr. Glendening has become defensive about humorous attacks leveled at him in radio ads by one opponent. And now, just as another anti-Glendening humor ad starts running on radio stations, Mrs. Hall suddenly issues a tTC statement -- co-signed by vice chairman Michael D. Barnes -- seeking to end "personal or ad hominem attacks on other candidates as we engage in this primary campaign."

Her timing is suspect. Who else could she be referring to except American Joe Miedusiewski, No. 2 in the latest polls and author of the anti-Glendening commercials? If she wanted to quell attacks on Comptroller Louis Goldstein and Montgomery County candidates, she should have done so weeks ago. But she didn't. Now, when Mr. Glendening is affronted by Mr. Miedusiewski's ads, Mrs. Hall tries to intercede in a way that gives the appearance of favoring the front-runner over another Democrat. That's not the role of the state party chairwoman.

The irony is that had Mr. Glendening ignored the Miedusiewski attacks and other criticisms leveled at him in recent weeks, none of this would have become a campaign issue. In fact, by taking umbrage at the Miedusiewski ads the Glendening camp has elevated its opponent and given him increased visibility. That's not smart politics.

What has distinguished Mr. Glendening's campaign has been his comprehensive approach to issues confronting Maryland. He's been the most expansive in detailing positions and creating a vision for voters to consider. Complaining about a handful of satirical commercials distracts Mr. Glendening from his mission. It also re-enforces the notion that the candidate lacks a funny bone.

In the remaining weeks of the campaign, we urge Mr. Glendening to lighten up. Barbs and verbal assaults are to be expected in a statewide race of this intensity. Especially if you're leading the pack. Democrats don't need a censor from party headquarters to referee the gubernatorial primary. They need candidates who know when to laugh off political slings and arrows and remain focused on the issues that Marylanders most want to hear addressed in detail this summer.

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