RGA jumps into Maryland race in support of Hogan

Do Republican governors sense an upset in Maryland?

The Republican Governors Association has jumped into the Maryland election campaign, creating a fast-paced new ad critical of Democrat Anthony G. Brown and buying Baltimore television time to back Larry Hogan.

The intervention by the RGA came as the Hogan campaign released two new ads Thursday in which young women explain why they plan to vote for the Republican nominee for governor. The ads, called "Amie" and "Ashley" after the women featured, follow two similar spots released a day earlier.

The new Republican ads come as some Democratic voters were receiving a mailing from the state party making an explicit appeal to help make Brown "Maryland's first African-American governor" — a theme the lieutenant governor himself has up to this point largely avoided.

The RGA's intervention in the race in deep-blue Maryland reflects a growing hope in GOP circles that Hogan can score an upset despite the state's 2-1 Democratic registration advantage. The RGA's chairman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, campaigned and raised funds for Hogan this week on his second visit to Maryland on Hogan's behalf.

According to filings with the Federal Communication Commission, the RGA will spend $166,515 to advertise on WJZ-TV. The ad the group released Thursday is a 30-second spot rattling off taxes, fares and other charges that have gone up under Brown and Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"An electricity rate increase. A transit fare increase. Another tax on gasoline. Higher income tax rates. A tax on mortgages. A rain tax. A flush tax," the ad says as images flash by. The RGA did not disclose plans for the Washington market.

The new Hogan campaign ads, which are running in the Washington television market, take direct aim at a core Democratic constituency by making an explicit appeal to younger women voters who don't normally vote for Republicans.

"One big selling point for me with Larry Hogan is the fact that he will not change any current Maryland law when it comes to important social issues," says the ad featuring Amie Shank of Baltimore. "I haven't voted for a Republican in a very long time. Larry Hogan doesn't fit that cookie-cutter image of Republican."

The Democratic mailing evokes the party's longtime association with the civil-rights movement, while reminding readers of contemporary issues in which Republicans have offended African-American and left-leaning voters.

Under the headline "They've placed roadblocks in our path at every turn," the ad uses historic images of an anti-civil rights demonstration and a "colored waiting room" sign along with more recent photos showing a sign saying "must show ID to vote" and Republican business mogul Donald Trump in front of a sign saying "Where's the birth certificate?"

The latter two refer to recent Republican-led efforts in other states to tighten voting requirements — a movement some believe is aimed at suppressing the minority vote — and to Trump's questioning of President Barack Obama's right to hold his office.

The ad does not mention Hogan or other Maryland Republicans. Inside, it touts Brown's credentials and says: "History is watching to see if we vote."

Jared Smith, a Democratic Party spokesman, would not disclose exactly how the mailer was targeted.

"It's been sent to hundreds of thousands of Maryland Democrats across the state," he said.

It apparently was not restricted to African-Americans. One white voter from Western Maryland who contacted The Baltimore Sun after receiving it said he found it to be "racist."

Smith said the mailer was aimed at motivating Democrats to vote — preferably early.

"This mailer highlights the right to vote that's been earned by many people over the course of this country's history," he said.

The Hogan campaign did not return calls seeking comments on its ads or Brown's. Answering a question during his third debate with Brown, Hogan said he believed a candidate's race should not be factor in the campaign.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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