Less than a week after winning a lawsuit against state utility regulators, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley will begin airing a television advertisement today that portrays him as someone willing to stand up to energy lobbyists and combat corporate interests.
The 30-second spot, the first in O'Malley's gubernatorial campaign, is focused on an expected 72 percent electric rate increase for BGE customers. The rate increases have become a central issue in this year's campaign.
"The special interests already have their governor - we need one of our own," says a voice-over shortly after a woman is shown receiving her electric bill. "Martin O'Malley - taking on BGE to stop the rate hikes."
Coming on the heels of O'Malley's victory in Baltimore Circuit Court against the Public Service Commission, the ad will coincide with the onset of warmer weather and increased household energy consumption.
Opponents characterized the ad as a desperate attempt to win back support on the mayor's home turf. Others noted that days after O'Malley won his lawsuit, state regulators temporarily revived a rate deferral plan that includes a smaller rate cut than the plan hashed out by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
"This is a blatant attempt to confuse and distort an already complicated situation," said Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver. "Through the O'Malley administration's obstructionistic efforts, they've managed to delay the only credible plan on the table."
Though the O'Malley campaign would not comment on the cost or scope of its media buy, sources have told The Sun that the mayor bought about $105,000 in air time on six Baltimore-area network television affiliates and on cable.
"As summer approaches and people begin thinking about Bob Ehrlich's 72 percent rate hike and the record profits of energy companies, this ad speaks to what our campaign is all about - leadership that stands with Maryland families, not corporate interests," said O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.
Though the ad does not mention O'Malley's rival in the Democratic primary, it follows a roughly $300,000 commercial campaign that Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan launched last month, focused in Baltimore.
"Mayor O'Malley is desperate to defend what he considers his home turf, and these television ads are clearly proof of that," said Duncan spokeswoman Jody Couser. "These ads are very telling of his concern, and for a campaign bereft of an original idea, his desperation."