Fowler, Fisher campaign materials spark controversy
District 27C delegate challenger’s endorsement is denied, disputed
The Calvert County race for the District 27C House of Delegates seat became more contentious in the final days and hours before the Nov. 6 election as questions surrounding the validity of a published endorsement and the accuracy of candidate mailers were called into question.
Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) said he received a phone call from former senator Bernie Fowler Sr. and son Bernie Fowler Jr. regarding an ad his Democratic opponent Jason Fowler placed in The Calvert Recorder.
The ad, placed by Jason Fowler’s campaign in the Nov. 2 edition, states: “Jason is endorsed by ...” with several unions and organizations represented by their respective logos arranged around a photo of himself with Bernie Fowler Sr.
“They are very upset that my opponent sent out a mailer and has advertised in the Recorder that he has been endorsed by them,” Fisher said in a text to the Recorder on Sunday.
In a follow-up interview Monday, Fisher said the conversation he had with the two Bernie Fowlers was not about endorsing one person over another, but about the accuracy of the ad and similar mailer.
“I would never pretend that I am endorsed by someone when I am not. I am endorsed by the governor and it’s in writing,” Fisher said.
Fisher said the elder Fowler acknowledged in the phone conversation that he takes photos with people all the time and also expressed longstanding concern over rumors that the candidate Fowler allegedly stated he is somehow related to the former senator.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back is when they saw the mailer and the ad in the Recorder,” Fisher said.
“I was shocked when my daughter brought me a clipping of the paper,” Bernie Fowler Sr. told the Recorder. “No, I did not endorse him and he did not ask me.”
“I don’t make a habit of endorsing candidates — both parties have been good to me when I left the Senate,” he said, suggesting Jason Fowler probably knew that.
The senator confirmed he and his son called Fisher to express concern over the implied endorsement and relationship. He also shared that Jason Fowler came to his house one time while door knocking, chatted with the family and asked if they were of any relation.
“I told him that I don’t know of any relationship — I don’t know you until now,” Bernie Fowler Sr. said.
Bernie Fowler Jr. posted on Facebook on Sunday to set the record straight about the information on fliers and ads circulating around Calvert.
“My father has not and does not endorse candidates. So maybe this is just convenient photo positioning but I’m posting this at the wishes of my dad. Many have questioned if we are related but not to our family’s knowledge. Hope this clears up any confusion!!” the post states, wishing all the candidates good luck.
The post garnered more than 200 shares and nearly 50 comments in under 24 hours.
Both Carter Mackiewicz and Larry Wilson posted separately in the comments that Jason Fowler told them each he was related to the well-known Fowlers.
But not all the comments were in opposition to Jason Fowler. Jessica Bellosi Mullinax posted “this is not at all meant to say he is endorsed by the former Senator! It’s giving credit as to who is in the picture and the logos are who endorsed him. It’s a sign of respect,” and other candidates get photos taken with Bernie Fowler Sr. and “use them on their boards, to insinuate that he supports them. I’m sure Jason Fowler can clear up the poster.”
“I’m not trying to do Jason any harm, but I don’t have any great confidence in insinuating,” Fowler Sr. said.
Concern was also elevated about the accuracy of a campaign mailer from Fisher about his opponent’s position on issues, suggesting Fowler is a supporter of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, a proponent of increasing taxes, wants Maryland to be a sanctuary state and that Fowler is anti-small business.
“We know we got that right because Jason Fowler supports Jealous’ policy of Medicare for all, [also the policy of] Bernie Sanders,” Fisher said, standing behind the content in his mailer. “It would require $24 billion in taxes. Our department of legislative services reported that figure.”
At a Calvert County League of Women Voters forum in October, Fowler said if someone is under arrest they are subject to the rules and regulations of the state and “if that means [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is informed of their presence, that is technically the law of the land and that’s how it should be handled.” Fowler also said at the forum that Jealous was not his candidate.
Fisher went line by line through his mailer’s text referring to retweets by Fowler and postings on Fowler’s website to support the claims, stating “all this stuff has been documented.”
Fisher said Fowler supports politician Rich Madealeno, who threw his support behind Jealous after losing to him in the primary.
Fisher also pointed to the Maryland Catholic Conference Survey’s question on immigration and limiting the participation of local law agencies in federal immigration enforcement efforts. According to Fisher, Fowler supposedly responded that police should be kept from doing their job. However, Fowler’s full response to the survey states: “Maryland should prioritize protecting family unity by passing legislation that, except for cases involving individuals with serious criminal records, limits the participation of local law agencies in federal immigration enforcement efforts.”
Jason Fowler has acknowledged requests for an interview from the Recorder to address both his ad and Fisher’s mailer and said he aimed to respond to the newspaper prior to deadline.