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Under Fire Over Underage Alcohol: Gansler Speaks Out About Teen Party Picture

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Photo posted to Instagram from Senior Week party in Delaware this summer.

Photo posted to Instagram from Senior Week party in Delaware this summer.

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Pat Warren joined the Eyewitness News team in 1992. Pat came to WJZ...
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SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJZ/AP)—Maryland Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler is in hot water again. This time it centers around his actions at a summer party where underage drinking may have taken place.

Political reporter Pat Warren has Gansler’s response to some heavy criticism.

The photo shows Gansler dressed in a white shirt in the center of a teenage house party in Bethany Beach, Del., where underage drinking was going on.

“From what I understand now, there certainly was some drinking, I guess, going on, because when you look at the picture — not right where I was — but there are one or two kids holding red cups. And there could be Kool Aid in the red cups, but there’s probably beer in the red cups. I didn’t go over and stick my nose in and see, and maybe I should of,” Gansler said.

Gansler says he dropped in to see his son, the party was chaperoned, and he saw no evidence of alcohol in the time he was there.

Gansler says in hindsight it was “a mistake” he did not do more to see if there was underage drinking.

Gansler’s reaction shifted from earlier comments to WJZ’s media partner, The Baltimore Sun, in which he said if he had seen underage drinking, it wouldn’t have been his responsibility to intervene.

Gansler starred last year in a public service announcement for The Century Council, an organization sponsored by the liquor industry that fights drunken driving and underage drinking. In the 30-second video spot, Gansler says parents are the leading influence on their kids’ behavior when it comes to alcohol, noting, “It’s never too early to talk to your kids about smart ways to say, `No.”‘

Council CEO Ralph Blackman said he expects the spot will be withdrawn from the organization’s YouTube channel.

“We talk a lot about the mixed messages that parents sometimes send to kids. It’s a bit of a mixed message for us” to have Gansler’s PSA available while his actions are under scrutiny.

Meanwhile, last week , Gansler defended his deportment as a passenger when his security officers say he ordered them to break traffic laws.

Gansler responded by calling the commander of the state police’s executive protection section a “henchman” of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running against Gansler for the party’s nomination.

First driving, now drinking. It makes some wonder if Gansler’s campaign is tanking.

Gansler faced reporters’ questions Thursday not only about whether he was qualified to be governor, but if he was qualified to remain the state’s chief law enforcement official.

Gansler responded that questions about his character have only surfaced since he recently announced his run for governor. Gansler served as Montgomery County’s state’s attorney, an elected position that made him the county’s top prosecutor, before becoming attorney general in 2007. Gansler said he planned to move forward with his campaign and expressed confidence he would prevail after debating issues important to the state.

“Is the dirty tricks and innuendo and all that stuff going to continue? Absolutely. We’re more than a year away from an election and this stuff’s going on now. I assume it’s going to get more and more,” Gansler said.

What he won’t do, he says, is quit.

“I’m a big boy. I’ve been doing this for a long time. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and when I could have done something differently I’ll tell you I could have done something differently. I could have done something differently,” Gansler said.

Gansler says he feels a moral obligation to the children of others,  as well as his own, and should have checked with the chaperones to make sure things were OK.

The primary will be held June 24.

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