Cleared of ethics charges stemming from a shoving match in the House of Delegates office building last spring, two Baltimore-area lawmakers are asking their political opponents to sign a "pledge of decency" so a debate on immigration issues can proceed with civility.
Republican Dels. Patrick L. McDonough and Richard K. Impallaria say they will retaliate with ethics charges of their own if certain Democratic delegates and lobbyists don't sign the two-paragraph pledge within a month.
"We have never, and would never, engage in name-calling," McDonough, a talk-show host on WCBM radio in Baltimore, said in a statement asking his opponents to sign the pledge.
But those who hold opposing views on immigration reject the challenge.
"Receiving a lecture on decency from Pat McDonough is like receiving marriage counseling from Jennifer Lopez," said Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat. "It's not really worthy of a response, but I will say I don't negotiate with extremists, and I don't respond to blackmail."
McDonough and Impallaria were lead sponsors of a series of bills this year seeking to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving driver's licenses or paying reduced in-state university tuition rates, among other things. The two represent eastern Baltimore County and portions of Harford County.
After a March hearing on the creation of an immigration task force, the two were involved in a shouting and shoving episode with activists and lobbyists outside the committee room. Police broke up the altercation, and an activist filed a complaint with the Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.
One lobbyist said she was frightened when Impallaria screamed at her, inches from her face. Another said McDonough pushed him. McDonough countered that he lifted his arm in self-defense when the lobbyist rushed toward him.
The lawmakers said they were angry because they were labeled racists during the hearing. But activists have denied making such accusations.
The ethics committee said in a letter mailed to the two lawmakers last month that it was dropping the complaint because it could not reconcile different versions of the altercation.
The pledge that McDonough and Impallaria are distributing reads, in part, "We, the undersigned, in the discussion of the issue of immigration reform, agree to engage in honest, ethical debate and to refrain from name-calling, personal attacks and misrepresentation of facts and of opponents' positions."
In addition to Franchot, other delegates listed as "probable recipients" of the pledge include Democrats Ana Sol Gutierrez of Montgomery County and Victor R. Ramirez of Prince George's.