A TV ad by the Republican Governors Association that says, "How much would Ben Jealous cost you? Even he doesn’t know." (Handout)

My first involvement in a Maryland gubernatorial campaign was in 1966, opposing George Mahoney’s openly racist anti-fair housing slogan “Your home is your castle. Protect it.” I thought I would never again see such a blatantly racist political appeal in this state’s politics. Sadly, I was wrong. The Republican Governors Association’s current ads for Larry Hogan harken back to the GOP’s worst dog-whistle campaigns.

It’s bad enough that the ads selectively edit Democrat Ben Jealous’ words to distort his message. Selective video editing is a dirty trick that politicians have used for years. What is worse about the RGA ads is how images in the commercials are intentionally distorted to give the impression that Mr. Jealous, a former national president of the NAACP, is an “angry black man” with extreme political views. It’s a throwback to the Republican’s racist “Willie Horton” ad of the 1988 presidential campaign, and Ronald Reagan's “welfare queen” comments.


Sadly, it is not surprising to find racism used to support a Republican campaign in 2018. After all, this is the era of Donald Trump. But it is surprising to find it being used to support a gubernatorial candidate in a progressive state like Maryland. Surprising — and unacceptable.

Mr. Hogan will undoubtedly deny that he had anything to do with these racially-charged ads. But he has allowed them to poison the political discourse, without raising an objection. The Republican Governors Association, to which Mr. Hogan belongs, has backed far-right extremists across the country and has been running similar ads against the African American candidate for governor of Georgia.

We must ask ourselves: Why does Mr. Hogan find these ads acceptable?

Ben Jealous is a leader in the best Democratic Party tradition. It is outrageous to see him race-baited by those commercials, and it is a disgrace that Mr. Hogan allows it to happen.

Larry S. Gibson, Baltimore

The writer is a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.