Out today: O'Malley campaign's first advertisement
The first advertisement paid for by either of the leading candidates in the fall 2010 Maryland governor's race is out today, and it's a negative one.
Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's re-election campaign is airing a one-minute radio spot called "Bob Ehrlich's Fantasy Land."
A woman with a condescending yet motherly voice tells listeners that Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. "keeps spinning his own fairy tale of leaving office with a budget surplus." In reality, she says, Ehrlich's administration knew that almost all of the surplus would be used to plug holes in the next year's budget.
The spot contends that Ehrlich had "record spending increases," bigger than either former Gov. William Donald Schaefer or former Gov. Parris N. Glendening. And, the narrator continues, Ehrlich raised more than "$3 billion in taxes and fees, including millions in property tax hikes on every business and family."
The advertisement began airing today on Baltimore radio stations, including WBAL, where Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel, host a Saturday morning talk show. It's not the first ad of the season: On the day Ehrlich launched his gubernatorial bid in Rockville and Baltimore County, Citizens for Strength and Security, a left-leaning group based in Washington, aired a spot calling Ehrlich a lobbyist who caters to large corporations. Its theatrical tone was similar to the O'Malley ad airing today. Ehrlich's campaign hasn't aired any ads yet.
Let's take a look at some of the "fantasy land" ad claims.
A Baltimore Sun story by Andrew A. Green, published just after O'Malley defeated Ehrlich in November 2006, provides some context:
"The good news for O'Malley is that Ehrlich is leaving behind more than $800 million in surplus rainy day funds that can be spent in the fiscal 2008 general fund budget -- expected to total nearly $15 billion - without jeopardizing Maryland's AAA bond rating.
"The bad news is that the budget, which will be prepared jointly by the outgoing Ehrlich administration and incoming O'Malley administration, will still have a $400 million hole to be filled by cuts or revenue increases."
Ehrlich had hoped to raise money by pushing through a slots program, but House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, and other legislative leaders blocked the plan (state voters later approved slot machines, but the program has yet to launch).
Without that slots revenue to balance the books, Green wrote in October 2006, he turned to other forms of revenue generation.
"Ehrlich stuck to his pledge not to raise sales or income taxes and instead relied on a patchwork of measures to close the projected gap.
"Ehrlich raised the property tax and a variety of fees, including a doubling of car registration fees and the so-called "flush tax" to fund Chesapeake Bay cleanup, that have cost Marylanders $2.5 billion."
Six months from now, it appears voters will again get to choose between Ehrlich and O'Malley, though both face primary election opponents. And in the meantime, it appears, we'll be re-reading lots of fall 2006 Baltimore Sun stories.