Things are getting ugly in the Democratic primary race for Congress in the 2nd District.
Despite earlier promises that they would not strike unless attacked, the two front-running Democratic contenders have begun beating up on each other, each claiming the other drew first blood.
Del. Gerry L. Brewster of Towson, a lawyer and former prosecutor, has launched an attack on the work record of Del. Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis of Dundalk, a mother of three who has campaigned on her blue-collar background and work ethic.
While defending her record, Mrs. DeJuliis, 48, charged that Brewster supporters are targeting her because she has gained ground on him.
"It's an act of desperation," she said.
Mr. Brewster denied the charge, saying he has only attacked Mrs. DeJuliis on one issue -- her work ethic -- and only after she attacked him.
"She took a shot at me," said Mr. Brewster, 36, the son of a former U.S. senator who grew up in Northern Baltimore County. "And I said, 'Well, since she took a shot at me, I'll return the favor.' "
Several weeks ago, Amy Black, Mrs. DeJuliis' press secretary, ridiculed Mr. Brewster's repeated reference to his growing up on a "working farm" by saying he was nothing more than a "polo pony boy."
Mrs. DeJuliis said she did not authorize or approve of that remark.
Mr. Brewster said he decided to fight back after Mrs. DeJuliis allegedly ridiculed him in front of the editorial board of Patuxent Publishing Co. recently for not being "a real Democrat."
That's when he brought forth his "absenteeism" report.
The report, which took Brewster staffers months to compile, charges that Mrs. DeJuliis missed 1,093 floor votes, quorum calls and committee votes of 7,019 during her first four years in Annapolis, while Mr. Brewster missed only 22.
"If work ethic is going to be the major thrust of her campaign, then I think it's fair to ask why she didn't show up to work," Mr. Brewster said.
Mrs. DeJuliis defended her voting record by saying that she missed many of those votes during the 1993 General Assembly session, when she was sick twice -- once in February and once during the final week of the 1993 legislative session, when many bills are voted on.
When criticized by Mr. Brewster, Mrs. DeJuliis said she responded, "I was sick, and you know it."
But Mr. Brewster said he does not remember Mrs. DeJuliis being ill.
4 Was she sick? Her mother, Glenna Mills, says so.
Mrs. Mills said she remembers her daughter calling from Annapolis, too sick to drive home. "We picked her up and brought her home," Mrs. Mills recalled, adding that Mrs. DeJuliis was sick in bed for several days with flu symptoms of fever, chills and aches.
Even if she was sick for a period of time, Mr. Brewster said, Mrs. DeJuliis' overall attendance record was bad.
Mrs. DeJuliis also has come under attack from another quarter for allegedly exaggerating her involvement in shutting down the Norris Farm landfill, which was accepting toxic chemical waste in the 1960s and 1970s.
Her brochure says she "led the charge" to shut Norris Farm down, but those who fought the landfill for years said they don't remember her being involved -- much less having been a leader.
Doris Kuhar, secretary for the Wells McComas Citizens Improvement Association, said she was outraged when she read the brochure.
"She's not exaggerating, she's lying," Mrs. Kuhar said. " I hate to be so blunt. . . . She was never there. She had nothing to do with it. She was never involved."
Others have come to Mrs. DeJuliis' defense.
"If you want to call lying down in front of trucks to stop them from going into the dump exaggerated, then I guess her involvement was exaggerated," said Pete Hajiantoni, a longtime Dundalk resident who remembers Mrs. DeJuliis working to draw attention to the Norris Farm issue in the early 1970s.
Although the brochure claim has stirred controversy, Mrs. DeJuliis stands by her statement. She said the Norris Farm attacks are politically motivated -- a charge her attackers denied.
Although Mr. Brewster has not raised the Norris Farm issue, he said her denial "sounds to me like an effort on Connie's part to direct attention away from a false claim on her brochure."
"I feel sorry for Gerry," Mrs. DeJuliis said. "He doesn't have a life. This race is all he has. This is what he's been programmed for. It's sad. But I don't feel sorry enough for him to leave the 2nd District to him, because the district deserves better."