Republican gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan blamed Democratic rival Anthony G. Brown for Baltimore's "food deserts" Thursday, suggesting that the O'Malley-Brown administration's tax policies led the the recent demise of the Stop Shop Save grocery chain.
In a statement released by the campaign, Hogan minimized the impact of Thursday's opening of a new, 67,000-foot ShopRite store in Howard Park.
"ShopRite expanding in Baltimore is a good thing, but I would have hoped this major corporation would have chosen to locate in one of Baltimore City's food deserts where unemployment and poverty are far higher than the state average," Hogan said.
Some Howard Park residents believe the neighhood did qualify as a "food desert" -- a low-income neighborhood without ready access to a grocery store and where many residents don't have cars. Howard Park had been without a grocery since a Super Pride closed in 1999.
Hogan linked Stop Shop Save's announcement last week that it would close the last of its six stores in the city to Brown's opposition to a cut in the corporate income tax, which the lieutenant governor has called a "giveaway."
"Making Maryland a place where employers can afford to stay open, isn't a corporate giveaway, it's common sense," Hogan said.
How much of a factor taxes were in the closing of the Stop Shop Save chain is open to interpretation. The chain's sales had been in decline for a decade, and industry consultants pointed to competition from larger chains, a failure to tailor merchandise to specific neighborhoods and a lack of reinvestment to update its stores.
"Nearly 500 members of the community turned out to support this grocery opening, but Larry Hogan is so out of touch with Maryland values he ignored the local support for Lt. Governor Brown's efforts to eliminate food deserts," said Justin Schall, Brown's campaign manager.