Ratcheting up his role in the increasingly bitter Democratic primary for comptroller, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is financing radio ads that accuse incumbent William Donald Schaefer of belittling blacks and women.
Hoping to boost Secretary of State John T. Willis' campaign, Glendening is using his largely inactive political committee to pay for the ads, which start airing today on stations catering to African-Americans in suburban Washington. The ads will run through the primary Sept. 10, according to the governor.
Glendening plans to spend $25,000 for the radio campaign and for a phone bank to call 60,000 Democratic voters on behalf of Willis, who is a close friend of the governor.
The move - which Schaefer called "dirty" and race-baiting - occurs 10 days after Glendening endorsed Willis. Since then, barbs have been flying between the governor and Schaefer, his nemesis and rival.
"I am putting my money where my heart is," Glendening said yesterday, adding that he is "outraged" by Schaefer's conduct as comptroller.
The ad, titled "Fairness and Respect," features a woman saying that "John Willis is dedicated to a more inclusive society and unlike ... Schaefer, John would never refer to women as 'little girls' or to African-Americans as 'Afros.'
"We've come too far to let this happen again," the ad continues.
Glendening and former Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, who also has endorsed Willis, have accused Schaefer of using the terms "little girls" and "Afros" when talking to some women and blacks who have appeared before the Board of Public Works. The governor, comptroller and treasurer compose the three-member board, which must approve all major state contracts.
Schaefer, who began his statewide radio ad campaign Friday, responded to Glendening's foray into the campaign by accusing the governor of playing the race card. Glendening used the same strategy during the final days of his 1998 re-election campaign when he sought to portray Republican opponent Ellen R. Sauerbrey as a racist, Schaefer said.
"He is targeting me in black areas, that is his usual tactic," said Schaefer, who is seeking a second term. "It's his dirty, racial tactics and I expect it from him."
The former governor and Baltimore mayor acknowledges calling someone "Afro" during a board meeting, but said it happened once.
"I have done more for black people during my time as a [Baltimore City] councilman, mayor and comptroller than [Glendening] ever did," he said.
Responding to the ad's allegation of insensitivity toward women, Schaefer alluded to the governor's recent divorce and subsequent marriage to Jennifer E. Crawford, who had been Glendening's top aide.
"He is a fine person to say I demean women," Schaefer said. "He ought to look into his own background."
Glendening's radio ads conclude by praising Willis as the best candidate to improve education, protect the environment and preserve aging communities.
Willis is running as a liberal alternative to the maverick Schaefer.
The governor said Willis was not involved in creating the ad campaign and did not know about it until yesterday.
Schaefer, who accuses the governor of pressuring Willis to enter the race, said he thinks the Willis campaign was involved.
Other contest noted
Matthew A. Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins University, said the governor was smart to target African-Americans in suburban Washington.
He said the hotly contested race for Prince George's County executive probably will increase voter turnout in that county, which has a majority black population.
Schaefer's ads in suburban Washington note that he has been endorsed by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry.
The governor's financial commitment gives a significant boost to the campaign of Willis, who had raised $70,000 as of Friday, according to campaign finance reports. Schaefer had raised more than $600,000 by the middle of last month, reports show.
Crenson is surprised that the governor is spending so much money to take on Schaefer.
Speculation on motive
"It either represents considerable devotion to Mr. Willis or a very deeply ingrained [hatred] for Schaefer," said Crenson, noting he suspects the latter.
Schaefer, who led in recent polls, said he is not worried. He believes his comments about the state's $1 billion projected deficit under Glendening have angered the governor.
"He is just mad," Schaefer said. "I wouldn't want someone to show me up the way I have shown him up."