Ballot issues vie for attention on crowded Maryland ballot

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

Supporters of Maryland's Dream Act and same-sex marriage must campaign in the shadow of the overwhelming casino debate, one of three major November ballot questions that has blanketed the Baltimore and Washington markets with television and radio advertisements.

While wealthy casino operators with seemingly limitless funds spend millions of dollars on advertisements during the evening news and Sunday football games, groups campaigning for passage of the Dream Act -- which would allow certain illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition -- have taken a more grassroots approach, knocking on doors and calling voters.

The campaigns to make Maryland the first southern state to defend same-sex marriage in a ballot initiative have been using the same grassroots strategy, but they also have celebrity backing.

Film stars Julianne Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Edward Norton and Susan Sarandon were scheduled to attend a gay marriage fundraiser in New York on Thursday night benefiting same-sex marriage campaigns in Maryland.

National organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund are campaigning in Maryland, working with local groups such as Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

Despite the surge of gambling ads -- and now robocalls -- Marylanders for Marriage Equality spokesman Kevin Nix said he's confident his group will get its message across.

"Given the positive polling and energy on the ground, our message is resonating," Nix said. "We just need to keep it up, using a variety of means to get our message out that Question 6 is about fairness and equality under the law."

Educating Maryland Kids, a pro-Dream Act group, will use phone banks and social media to campaign and plans to release television and radio ads closer to Election Day, said spokeswoman Kristin Ford.

But other campaigns can't compete with the expensive ad buys that casino developers can afford, according to Donald Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

"It's the only [ballot question] where the opponents and proponents have nearly unlimited dollars," Norris said. "They basically have a license to print their own money."

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner