By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Oct. 4, 2018) Call it “The Battle of the Caucuses.”
Anyone with a mailbox in Senate District 38 has probably received campaign mailers about incumbent Sen. Jim Mathias and challenger Delegate Mary Beth Carozza.
The most recent batch, mailed late last week, came from the Maryland Democratic Caucus Committee and the Maryland Senate Republican Caucus.
One ad, from the Democrats, states, “When Eastern Shore Schools Needed Her Most, DELEGATE CAROZZA ANSWERED WITH A BIG ‘NO.’”
The mailer calls Carozza a “career Washington, D.C. insider” and says she voted against increasing the Eastern Shore’s education funding in the state budget, and against increasing access to higher education and modernizing school construction.
A Republican ad states, “Jim Mathias [is] PRETENDING TO BE SOMETHING HE’S NOT,” with a photo of a literal wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The reverse side of the mailer shows Mathias with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous and a separate photo of former Governor Martin O’Malley, adding, “Jim Mathias likes to pretend he’s a moderate … but in Annapolis he shows his true liberal self.”
Additional claims in the ad include that Mathias “voted for all eight of Martin O’Malley’s bloated state budgets that” increased taxes and fees, created in billions in deficits, and “wasted millions on little-used mass transit in the Baltimore metro area while Eastern Shore roads crumbled.”
“A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Mathias voted against Governor Hogan again and again. Mathias’ support of tax increases and job-killing regulations have showed us who he really is,” the ad says.
Mathias, in a phone interview Friday, said there is a clear difference in the tone of the ads.
“Last week I looked like a child predator peering through closed blinds and it asked what I was hiding. Before that, it was something else. Before that, I was trying to make it easier to buy heroin in your neighborhood than ice cream,” Mathias said. “Unfortunately, that’s the manner that they’ve chosen to communicate with the voters – through scare tactics and clearly maligning me as a person.
“When you look at votes and someone voting ‘no’ versus attacking their character, to me, right there, there’s an entirely different standard,” he continued. “And it’s truly the battle of the caucuses. And my caucus has had enough of it. How long do you want to get pummeled? Until you lose? How long do you want to be portrayed as a sinister person that has mal intent for their constituents?”
Mathias said the print mailers also did not tell the whole story, but the campaign has also included a number of ads that pop up online.
“It’s also what daughter saw on the internet when she went to put some pictures up [and] what my sister saw when she was playing Scrabble,” he said. “It’s the same trash, only invading their computers and their handheld devices.
“Am I crying? No. My approach continues to be the high road,” Mathias said.
He added the Democratic ad included a “fact checker” of specific House Bills that were referenced. It also includes a link to Carozza’s LinkedIn profile.
However, the Republican mailer also references Senate Bills, House Bills, a veto override and an online story about highway user revenues.
“All I can tell you is, the caucus has had enough. They respect me. They respect my voice in the caucus and this is the manner that they have communicated,” Mathias said. “What the Republican Caucus wants to do is vacate me as a human being.”
He went on to say the Democratic ads focus on votes, rather than whether Carozza was trustworthy.
“It talks about votes. It talks about action,” he said. “The caucus is creating a contrast … between my votes that we’re expected to do when we represent the public, versus character and calling my trustworthiness into question.
“They’re calling upon my constituents and my neighbors to not trust me, and the pictures that they’re portraying me as are enough to scare you – they’re scare tactics,” Mathias added. “That’s a clear attempt to damage me and my life that I’ve made here as a public official, and a person that has asked people to vest their trust and confidence in me.
“It’s a clear attempt to decay that, to erode that, to damage that, versus showing the difference in bills that are critically important on an issue like education,” he said.
With the election fast approaching on Nov. 6, Mathias said the both campaigns were essentially in the seventh-inning stretch.
He said he’s been a champion of farmers, commercial watermen, small businesses and education, and has been an overall effective voice for the Eastern Shore.
Meanwhile, he said his opposition has gone over the top in its negativity.
“This is about strict partisan politics to take the Democrat out … vilifying, demonizing, photo-shopping – that’s what it’s about,” Mathias said.
Carozza, reached for comment, referred to a Friday morning post on the “Mary Beth Carozza for Senate” Facebook page titled “Setting the Record Straight.”
“I have been asked by constituents and supporters about a misleading mailer that was paid for by the Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus that distorts my voting record on education. The incumbent is getting desperate, so here are the facts.
“Unlike Jim Mathias, who voted for every wasteful budget that Martin O’Malley put forward with no questions asked, I’m willing to vote ‘NO’ on a budget when wasteful spending is added late in the game, and that’s why I ran for office in the first place, to hold the line on excessive spending. This was the case in 2015 when I joined with Gov. Hogan in opposing the final version of the state’s budget – that’s the vote that Jim Mathias and his friends in Annapolis are now using to attack me. I will always stand up against these types of last-minute partisan maneuvers.
“I am also proud to have stood against legislation that eliminated Gov. Hogan’s oversight of school construction funding and gave that power to unelected bureaucrats and placed it at the mercy of backroom deals. Jim Mathias voted for this irresponsible and disastrous bill, and then voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto. We can’t take four more years of Jim Mathias siding with Baltimore and Annapolis power brokers over our values,” Carozza said.
In a September interview in this paper, Carozza said there is a clear contrast between the candidates in terms of voting records, and in local and state partnerships. In particular, Carozza said she worked closely with Gov. Larry Hogan and had a record of “consistently voting to sustain Hogan’s vetoes.”
“This defining contrast between the two of us on the vetoes is very, very key,” Carozza said. “I do not – and will never – have to check with [Senate President] Mike Miller on how I’m going to vote on an issue, to see if they have enough votes to override the governor and, then it’s OK, then you can vote your district, which is the complete wrong approach to representing District 38.”
She indicated a prior campaign ad sent by the Republic Party stating “Jim Mathias Is Making It Easier To Get Heroin Than Ice Cream!” may have gone too far, but said Mathias’ support of Senate Bill 288 was wrong.
“I want to be clear: I strongly opposed that – he sponsored it,” Carozza said.
She added, via text message on Monday, “I am making a strong and convincing case that there are clear contrasts between us based on the facts. Voters need to know the differences between us on our approach to public service, our positions, and our voting records. As I personally go door to door in all three counties, the support for my State Senate campaign continues to build each and every day. Voters are telling me that it’s time for a change. I am running for State Senate to be a strong voice for the Shore.”