The 41st District Senate race became more negative yesterday, with allegations of dirty political tricks and property vandalism as the campaign moved into the final week before the Sept. 10 primary.
Supporters of Del. Lisa A. Gladden's bid accused one of her opponents, Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, of spreading inaccurate reports about Gladden's record in the House of Delegates to voters in the Northwest Baltimore district during telephone poll questions Thursday and Friday. They said other poll questions, conducted by a firm they believe is in Colorado, put Hoffman in a positive light.
"Everyone's expecting dirty tricks from Barbara Hoffman," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, once a close ally of Hoffman's but now a strong supporter of Gladden. Rawlings is the father of City Councilwoman Stephanie C. Rawlings Blake, who received one of the poll calls. "This is outrageous," he said.
Hoffman said she is conducting polling, but has hired a Washington, D.C.-based firm, not a Colorado company. She denied using any "dirty tricks" in her campaign.
"Most polls test positives and negatives," Hoffman said. "When Lisa Gladden polled, I'm sure they said some negative things about me."
Hoffman said her husband's car was vandalized late Friday or early yesterday -- a week after some of her lawn signs were pulled up. She said the two side mirrors on the car were broken off but no other car in the neighborhood was touched, suggesting that her family was specifically targeted.
The heated 41st District Senate Democratic primary, which includes Gladden, Hoffman and former Del. Frank D. Boston Jr., increasingly has strained relations between Hoffman and Rawlings, two of the ranking city legislators in Annapolis. Hoffman is chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, while Rawlings is her counterpart in the House of Delegates as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
If both are re-elected, Hoffman said, they will continue to ensure that Baltimore gets the funding and projects it needs, but she added that she and Rawlings will likely have a strictly business relationship.
"I believe we had a good personal relationship," Hoffman said. "There's not going to be a personal relationship anymore."
Rawlings said the campaign is about politics, nothing personal. "We intend to be competitive," he said.
Objects to strategy
Rawlings said he simply objects to the strategy he alleges that Hoffman employed.
Rawlings Blake, who is supporting Gladden, said she received poll calls at 6:25 p.m. and 7:06 p.m. Friday. Then the questioning included positive statements about Hoffman that she was asked to rate, such as "Senator Hoffman has brought people together" and "Senator Hoffman has brought money to Baltimore," Rawlings Blake said.
Those questions were followed by a series of negative statements about Gladden, including "Delegate Gladden voted so white men would be considered minorities" and "she supported legislation to make it easier for children to get guns."
Barbara Williston, a 28-year Baltimore schoolteacher, said she received such a poll call Thursday.
"This is the most negative kind of campaigning," said Williston, who has not decided for whom she will vote. "They would not identify the source of the call."
Although Hoffman said she has not hired any Colorado polling firms, she has raised such issues about Gladden.
Hoffman sponsored gun legislation, defeated in both House and Senate committees last session, that would have prohibited a person from storing or leaving a firearm in a location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child could gain access to it.
Issues not raised
Gladden, who sat on the House committee that defeated the gun bill, said she did not recall the specific legislation yesterday. She said Hoffman has never raised these issues with her personally.
Gladden said the legislation regarding white men was House Bill 1150, which was primarily a set-aside program for African-Americans and women. The bill included underprivileged or disadvantaged white males in Western Maryland but did not make "white men minorities."
"This is consistent with the way she campaigns," Gladden said of Hoffman. "I will not aggravate this race with negative campaigning."
Rawlings said the polling tactics were "just further manipulation of black voters" in an election in which a number of African-American political leaders believe that Gladden, who is black, should be elected from the 41st District because the population there is 70 percent African-American.