Thirty-second TV spots by Democrat Anthony Brown and the Democratic Governors Association deliver remarkably similar messages portraying Larry Hogan as someone opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. The ads tie Hogan to long-ago proposals.
What the ads say: The Brown spot opens with the question "Who is Larry Hogan?" It answers with a series of statements about Hogan's stance on abortion, asserting that Hogan opposes a woman's right to choose and wants to ban abortion in cases of rape and incest. To back up those claims, it cites newspaper articles. For instance, it says Hogan "Opposes a Woman's Right to Choose" and suggests an Aug. 22 article in The Baltimore Sun was the source of the information.
The DGA ad is subtly different — and arguably more accurate — because it uses the past tense in describing positions Hogan has taken. Among them is an assertion that Hogan "backed a plan that would ban common forms of birth control."
"That's Republican Larry Hogan's record. It's radical, dangerous and would take Maryland backwards," the DGA ad concludes.
The facts: Some 35 years ago, Hogan supported an order by his father, then the Prince George's County executive, to ban abortion in county hospitals except to save the life of the mother. And in a 1981 campaign for Congress, Hogan supported a "human life" amendment giving unborn infants civil rights from the time of fertilization and putting the legality of some forms of contraception in doubt.
What the ads don't say is that they are based on positions Hogan took more than three decades ago.
The Baltimore Sun article the Brown ad cites did not in fact say Hogan opposes the right to choose. The article said Democrats had "unearthed" a 1980 news story about Hogan's stance on his father's anti-abortion order. An article in The Sun in 1992, when Hogan again ran for Congress, reported he had modified his position and favored keeping abortion legal while allowing states to restrict it.
In the current campaign, Hogan has repeatedly stressed that while he is still opposed to abortion, he would not act as governor to restrict women's reproductive rights. He has declared that Maryland voters decided the abortion issue in a 1992 referendum. He also says now that he would protect a woman's "unfettered" access to birth control. To the extend the ads use the present tense to describe Hogan's positions, they could be seen as misleading.
Analysis: Brown and the Democrats are trying to keep Hogan on the defensive about women's rights and away from his core economic message. Portraying Hogan as a hard-core right-wing Republican is a centerpiece of Brown's strategy.