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Ad watch: Brochin defends gun record, attacks Almond in Baltimore County executive race

State Sen. Jim Brochin’s newest television ad goes on the attack against one of his rivals in the Democratic primary for Baltimore County executive, County Councilwoman Vicki Almond.

What the ad says: The 30-second ad airing on broadcast and cable stations opens with images of Brochin talking with people. The female narrator says Brochin voted to ban assault rifles, voted to take away guns from domestic abusers and co-sponsored a law outlawing bump stocks.

The ad then shows pictures of the Towson Row construction site, and stacks of cash.

“So why is Vicki Almond trying to deceive us?” the narrator asks. “Because Vicki voted to give developers everything they wanted, including 43 million of your tax dollars. In exchange, they’re bankrolling her campaign.”

The narrator says Brochin has a “strong” record on gun control, “proudly earning one of Maryland’s lowest ratings from the NRA.”

The facts: Brochin did vote for the three laws cited in the ad. But gun control advocates note that while Brochin voted for the assault weapons ban in 2013 — a few months after the Sandy Hook school massacre — he voted for a series of amendments that tried to weaken the bill. He also voted against a motion to end debate and take the final vote on the bill. Had the motion to end debate failed, opponents could have attempted to filibuster the bill to death.

Vinny DeMarco, a gun control lobbyist, said Brochin’s vote not to end debate was more important than his vote on the final bill, which sailed to passage. “His vote against [ending debate] could have killed it, and that would have been it,” DeMarco said.

The National Rifle Association ratings are not posted on the NRA’s website. The NRA did not respond to a request from The Baltimore Sun for the organization’s past ratings.

Almond’s campaign says that Brochin earned A ratings and endorsements from the NRA in 2006 and 2010.

In an interview, Brochin acknowledged gun-rights groups have supported him in the past, but he says he’s voted against the NRA’s wishes repeatedly in recent years. “Sandy Hook was a game-changer,” he said.

Small type on Brochin’s ad cites the website of the nonprofit group Vote Smart, which lists the senator earning a 7 percent NRA rating in 2014. The Vote Smart website also lists Brochin earning a 92 percent from the NRA in 2010 and a “B” rating in 2002.

There’s no way to verify Brochin’s claim that Almond gave developers “everything they wanted.” She did, however, vote for a $43 million assistance package for the companies that are building Towson Row, a massive mixed-use development on York Road. The developers will pay back some of the aid over the years by giving up tax breaks and paying more in property taxes than they normally would. But some of the money is a $16.4 million grant.

The ad claims that developers are “bankrolling” Almond’s campaign. Developers have been among her major contributors, donating more than $100,000 to her campaigns over the years. And developers donated about $30,000 to a political action committee that was formed to promote Almond’s candidacy.

Analysis: The ad hits upon two of the top issues in the Baltimore County executive campaign: gun control and development.

Though gun control largely is regulated at the state and federal level, it’s become a factor in the race, with the Democratic candidates squabbling over each other’s records. Brochin’s ad tries to link that squabbling over guns to Almond’s perceived support of developers, accusing her of diverting attention from development issues.

A version of the ad that aired for about one day claimed Brochin had an “exceptional” record on gun control, which he later changed to “strong.” Based on the information available, Brochin appears to have a mixed record on gun control.

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