Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley ordered state highway workers to remove political campaign signs for Republican candidates during the weekend, according to GOP candidates and homeowners.
The leader of the state with the slogan of "Seize the Day Off" apparently told state employees to work on their days off, at overtime rates, according to candidates and residents along major thoroughfares in the Democratic stronghold of Montgomery County, in the Washington suburbs. Those residents told Newsmax they were surprised on Saturday when highway workers removed signs from their front yards and tossed them into a state dump truck.
“This is an absolute outrage,” said Rob Vricella, a Republican candidate for county council who confronted the workers. “I jumped up into the truck and retrieved my own signs and saw a pile of what looked like all Republican signs.”
When Vricella challenged the workers, they identified themselves as state employees who were getting overtime to remove the signs on the Democratic governor’s orders, he said.
Perhaps not coincidentally in this state regarded as one of the bluest of the blue, O’Malley is running for re-election against former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich (right), whom O’Malley ousted in 2006 after Ehrlich had served just one term.
A few minutes after Vricella encountered the state workers, the truck stopped in front of Charles Pelham’s house in Bethesda. His wife was working in the yard when the state workers removed Republican campaign signs from their property, despite her protests, Pelham said.
The workers told her the same story: They were acting on the Democratic governor’s orders and receiving overtime for working on Saturday and Sunday.
Candidates regularly put up signs on the medians of main roads, even though state law forbids the practice and holds offending candidates responsible for their removal. Candidates who don’t remove their signs after Election Day can be fined, although that has happened rarely, if ever.
But the state has no authority to remove signs from private property. Removal of private property without the owner’s request is theft.
“Normally, we never see state workers on these roads,” Vricella said. “The county plows the road in winter, and fills potholes. It suggests to me that the Democrats are running scared and will do everything they can to stifle us and keep us from getting our message out.”
Maryland is among the bluest of the blue states, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 2-to-1. It has only one Republican member of Congress, among eight. Both of the state’s U.S. senators are Democrats, as is a majority of the state Legislature. President Obama won the state in 2008 with 61.9 percent of the vote.
But independents account for roughly 30 percent of registered voters, and they have voted for Republicans as recently as 2002, when Ehrlich was elected governor, beating unpopular Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Democrats clearly are worried about losing ground in Maryland. The Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee pumped an additional $348,000 into the contentious 1st Congressional District race last week, bringing the total they have invested in this race to $1.5 million.
Democrats hope the cash will help beat back a challenge to freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil from popular Republican state Sen. Andy Harris in a rematch of the 2008 face-off that Kratovil won by fewer than 3,000 votes. Republicans have poured in almost as much cash, making the race one of the five most expensive in the nation.
The latest Washington Post polls have O’Malley sailing to re-election with a double-digit margin. But sources inside the Ehrlich campaign say their internal polling shows the Republican challenger just three points behind, making the race a statistical dead heat.
O’Malley campaign spokesman Mark Giangreco denied any gubernatorial involvement in removing the political signs.
“These desperate and completely baseless charges are what we'd expect from Bob Ehrlich's floundering campaign on the eve of the election,” he told Newsmax in an e-mail.
Montgomery County GOP Chairman Mark Uncapher countered that the order to remove such signs can come only from O’Malley.
During the past two decades, Maryland has become “an incubator for the far left,” says Republican state Delegate Ron George.
George is locked in a tough re-election battle with Judd Legum, a 31-year-old lawyer and former opposition researcher for Hillary Clinton. The Clinton camp has hosted several fundraisers for Legum, with help from former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, whose Center for American Progress gets money from George Soros.
Another target of the sign snatchers was Republican state Senate candidate Kurt Osuch, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer who now is a business consultant.
Osuch is running against incumbent Richard Madaleno, who tried to pass legislation this year that would compel the governor to bring home Maryland National Guard troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also campaigned hard to legalize gay marriage.
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