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.
Hes got demographics and voter registration numbers heavily in his favor. Hes got a unified Democratic Party behind him. Hes got or soon will have money galore to spend on a lavish media campaign.
Browns 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 isnt pretty. It reflects poorly on Brown. Is this the way he intends to govern?
His opponent, Republican Larry Hogan Jr., isnt 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 Browns bombastic charges and called the lieutenant governor a liar.
Browns 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
Browns 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 womens abortion rights and abolish Marylands gun laws.
Lets scare em into voting for Brown!
Hogan the moderate conservative
None of this is true.
Hogan isnt a wild-eyed Tea Party radical. He stands to the left of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich on his approach toward Democratic Annapolis.
Yes, hes 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 doesnt like the restrictions but hes 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 Marylands 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. Its a little more complicated than that.
Yes, Hogan eventually wants to bring down the states high corporate tax rate, which is one reason Virginia has an easy time gaining new businesses at Marylands 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, its not so simple. Hogans not anti-education as Browns ads intimate.
He just thinks Browns plan is unaffordable given Marylands continuing structural deficit and uncertain revenue outlook.
Thats 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 states and the nations high unemployment level and high poverty rate should spur caution, not activist spending programs.
Browns irresponsible ads pounding away at Hogans $300 million in tax breaks for rich corporate owners mirrors what Brown pulled on Attorney General Doug Gansler in the Democratic primary.
Browns opposition to any reduction in Marylands corporate tax rate could have long-term, negative consequences. It sends the wrong signal about the states 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 worlds largest and most advanced electric-auto battery plant there a $5 billion project resulting in 6,500 full-time jobs.
Such a deal apparently wont happen in Maryland under Gov. Brown. His campaigns rhetoric is narrowing his economic development options.
Browns smear tactics leave a rank odor. It will linger. Its a self-inflicted wound that may become a huge and unnecessary campaign liability.
Barry Rascovars blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com