The race for Maryland's 2nd Congressional District seat has ** turned nasty and negative, as the candidates trade attacks on each other's record in increasingly personal terms.
The slide started with a televised cartoon ad from Democrat Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis that accuses Republican incumbent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of being "clueless" because of his party-line votes to cut Medicare spending.
Ehrlich says the cartoon is "nasty, silly and wrong" -- and responded last night with his ad bringing up an old charge that DeJuliis missed nearly 1,000 votes during her four years in the General Assembly.
"That's clueless," the Ehrlich ad says, showing an unflattering, slow-motion picture of the former Dundalk delegate. DeJuliis responded to a similar charge by primary rival Gerry Brewster in 1994, saying that she missed votes in 1993 due to several illnesses.
DeJuliis campaign manager Betty Deacon said Ehrlich's ad is a personal attack, but that her candidate's is not. Ehrlich's campaign says it merely responded to an attack in kind. Each campaign accused the other of "acts of desperation,"
DeJuliis has scheduled a news conference for today in front of The Sun building on Calvert Street to take issue with what Ehrlich says is his reputation for honesty.
Meanwhile, in a Maryland Public Television debate aired last night, DeJuliis criticized Ehrlich for what she said was his ineffective response to a controversial housing discrimination suit settlement between Baltimore and the American Civil Liberties Union. The settlement will bring poor public housing residents to the suburbs.
In the past, Ehrlich has so criticized the suit settlement that he has been accused of overusing it for political gain. For example, he helped to preside over a meeting of 1,500 in Dundalk in May, and denounced the deal but gave little advice on how to fight it.
But in the videotaped debate, DeJuliis says Ehrlich hasn't done enough to fight such resettlement policies.
"I really wish he had introduced legislation, which he hasn't done," said DeJuliis, who favors tougher standards for federal rent subsidies that would reward good work records and stress personal responsibility and homeownership. "But Mr. Ehrlich has done nothing."
Ehrlich, however, said his attempts to strip away federal funding for the settlement were stymied on a conference committee headed by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski -- a Democrat.
"I oppose it. I've always opposed that sort of program," Ehrlich said about the negotiated settlement that could move more than 3,000 families from downtown public housing to elsewhere in the city and suburbs. "You should not have government by consent decree."
As for the settlement, he said, "This is Bill Clinton's housing policy."
DeJuliis' jabs at him, he said, "are so far-fetched, so far out" they are ridiculous. "It's not the way the legislative process works."
In the debate, Ehrlich also stressed his efforts to eliminate privileges and perks enjoyed by members of Congress for years, including an exemption from most of the laws the body passed. "We've really cleaned up the way Congress operates," he said.
In closing, he shot back at DeJuliis, his former Baltimore County colleague in the Maryland General Assembly.
"Platitudes and generalizations do not a congressman or congresswoman make," he said.
DeJuliis continues to put pressure on Ehrlich, who is Maryland's only member of the conservative Republican freshman class in Congress. In a debate last week, she referred to those members of Congress as "radical right-wing kids" and said they "have declared generational warfare" by following the agenda set out by House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
DeJuliis also has sounded national Democratic themes, charging Republicans with proposing deep cuts in Medicare and Social Security merely to pay for Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole's proposed 15 percent tax cut.
Ehrlich has characterized his opponent's claims as "class warfare" that seeks to frighten and divide voters.
Pub Date: 10/23/96