SALISBURY — A state House race in Maryland’s Eastern Shore has taken a rare, fierce turn.
The Maryland Republican Party digitally altered a photo showing Democratic Delegate Norman Conway wearing a black ski mask more typically seen on bank robbers. The photo was placed on fliers that were mailed to voters in Conway’s Wicomico County-centered district over the weekend.
Conway’s opponent in the Nov. 4 election, Republican Carl Anderton, was quick to distance himself from the mailer Monday, calling it shameful “big-city politics.”
Anderton, the mayor of Delmar, said he didn’t know about the flier until someone told him about it over the weekend and that he had no part in it.
“I have no need to do anything remotely close to that,” Anderton told The Daily Times.
The flier is titled, “Maryland Families Can’t Trust Norm Conway … He’s Not on Our Side.” In addition to the image of him in a ski mask, a picture on the back shows a shadow of jail bars cast across a waving Conway.
The mailer cites several of Conway’s House votes since 2009 as evidence that the longtime representative is soft on crime.
Conway denounced the mailer as a “dirty trick” and said its “statements don’t necessarily jibe with the synopsis of the bills” he approved.
Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party and the mailer’s author, said the presentation may be flawed, but the message isn’t.
“Did I go a little overboard on pictures? Maybe,” Cluster said. “It’s a little shocking but so are his votes.”
Adam Hoffman, a political science professor at Salisbury University, said though the primaries are in the past, both parties would do well to mind certain boundaries with voters.
He said negative ads are often the work of “campaigns that perceive that they are in trouble” and carry a big risk.
“If it’s too negative and perceived by voters are distasteful, it could easily backfire,” Hoffman said.