By Barry Rascovar
So much for a positive, uplifting campaign for Maryland governor. Both candidates already are down in the gutter hurling mud balls at each other.
Anthony Brown is by far the worse offender, which is curious.
The Democratic nominee and current lieutenant governor should be enjoying the view from the top of the campaign mountain.
He’s got demographics and voter registration numbers heavily in his favor. He’s got a unified Democratic Party behind him. He’s got — or soon will have — money galore to spend on a lavish media campaign.
Brown’s Curious Tactics
In heavily Democratic Maryland, why should this candidate go negative?
Is it insecurity?
Has Brown been persuaded by campaign operatives to launch “scorched earth” attacks?
Or is the race a lot closer than the general perception?
Whatever the reason, it isn’t pretty. It reflects poorly on Brown. Is this the way he intends to govern?
His opponent, Republican Larry Hogan Jr., isn’t helping matters with his ad excoriating Brown for his weak leadership and incompetence during the botched health exchange rollout.
Last Thursday, he held a press conference, refuted Brown’s bombastic charges and called the lieutenant governor “a liar.”
Brown’s first TV ad against Hogan, which the Republican told reporters was full of distortions of his record and positions.
Smear campaign of half-truths, untruths
Brown’s napalm bombs are landing but they are way off-target. They amount to a smear campaign combining half-truths and flat-out untruths.
Brown and his cohorts at the Democratic Governors Association want voters to believe Hogan has a “dangerous Republican agenda” and a “dangerous conservative ideology” that will devastate women’s abortion rights and abolish Maryland’s gun laws.
Let’s scare ’em into voting for Brown!
Hogan the moderate conservative
None of this is true.
Hogan isn’t a wild-eyed Tea Party radical. He stands to the left of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich on his approach toward Democratic Annapolis.
Yes, he’s conservative, but his statements on social issues have been cautious and moderate.
Abortions? Hogan, a devout Catholic, opposes them. But he stated again Thursday he will not do anything as governor to change the status quo.
Gun laws? Same thing. Hogan doesn’t like the restrictions but he’s not foolish enough to believe he could do anything to change what Democrats and voters approved to rein in illicit gun use.
Dangerous agenda? No, but it is very much a platform crafted by a businessman who believes smaller government works best, that Democrats have been too quick to raise taxes and that Maryland’s anti-business reputation has cost the state tens of thousands of jobs.
Brown repeatedly asserts Hogan wants to give $300 million in tax breaks to wealthy corporations. It’s a little more complicated than that.
Yes, Hogan eventually wants to bring down the state’s high corporate tax rate, which is one reason Virginia has an easy time gaining new businesses at Maryland’s expense.
But Hogan also has made it clear his top priority is ratcheting down government spending, and then see if certain taxes can be reduced.
Is Hogan against universal pre-kindergarten? Again, it’s not so simple. Hogan’s not anti-education as Brown’s ads intimate.
He just thinks Brown’s plan is unaffordable given Maryland’s continuing structural deficit and uncertain revenue outlook.
That’s not wild-eyed or radical. It even makes sense.
The last thing Maryland needs next year is a raft of new crusades and tax hikes. The state’s and the nation’s high unemployment level and high poverty rate should spur caution, not activist spending programs.
Brown’s irresponsible ads pounding away at Hogan’s “$300 million in tax breaks” for rich corporate owners mirrors what Brown pulled on Attorney General Doug Gansler in the Democratic primary.
Brown’s opposition to any reduction in Maryland’s corporate tax rate could have long-term, negative consequences. It sends the wrong signal about the state’s business climate.
Does this mean Governor Brown will say “no” to helping corporations even if this would bring huge numbers of jobs to Maryland?
Nevada just agreed to give Tesla Motors $1.3 billion in long-term incentives to build the world’s largest and most advanced electric-auto battery plant there — a $5 billion project resulting in 6,500 full-time jobs.
Such a deal apparently won’t happen in Maryland under Gov. Brown. His campaign’s rhetoric is narrowing his economic development options.
Brown’s smear tactics leave a rank odor. It will linger. It’s a self-inflicted wound that may become a huge — and unnecessary — campaign liability.
Barry Rascovar’s blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com