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Family members can criticize each other without backlash, whereas the same criticism from those considered outsiders is not so easily accepted — a lesson Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler is learning.

Gansler, a Montgomery County resident running for governor, opened a campaign office recently in Forestville and made statements regarding issues he thinks need to be addressed in Prince George’s County. Among his comments, he cited the need for more high-end restaurants, shopping options and school improvements — common complaints cited in the county.

And he was quickly slammed for his remarks by a host of Prince George’s leaders, most of whom are listed as having endorsed one of Gansler’s gubernatorial opponents, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Prince George’s resident.

In an open letter emailed by County Councilman Derrick Leon Davis (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville, with nearly 30 other officials signed on, Gansler’s claim that it is still difficult to find a mall or “restaurant with a tablecloth in Prince George’s” comes under fire.

“His words are demeaning and nothing could be further from the truth,” the email states.

Granted, much of what Gansler stated about Prince George’s has been previously stated by others listed in the letter — perhaps in a different manner, but the sentiment was still the same. And Davis’ email agrees with Gansler’s school system comments in some respects, but argues that the overall progress made in the county should have been mentioned and chastises Gansler’s choice of words.

So, in summary, Gansler said Prince George’s has more progress to make and supporters of one of his opponents agree — but want it said in a nicer way.

Perhaps the comments would have been more palatable if Gansler’s running mate, Prince George’s delegation chairwoman Jolene Ivey, had said them. Given that she has had a hand in Prince George’s changes, maybe she would have been given a pass on mentioning the county’s progress as she cited where improvements are needed.

A clear misstep for Gansler, however, was citing that he gained the support of eight former Brown supporters; The Washington Post identified at least one supporter Gansler listed erroneously.

Clearly, the many signatories on Davis’ email proves Brown still has a good number of county leaders’ support.

It’s important, however, that voters not get bogged down in side issues. Rather than debate how a county concern was phrased, debate the best methods for addressing the challenge. Voters — and election hopefuls — must focus on what really matters as they head to the polls: candidates’ priorities, their strategies for achieving their goals and their records of bringing positive change.