Tax protest group turns on Republican delegate

January 29, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Northern Baltimore County's property tax protest group doesn't waste time letting politicians know when it feels they've done something wrong.

At one time David Boyd's Property Taxpayers United (PTU) fervently supported County Executive Roger B. Hayden. Now the group's newsletter routinely calls him "the Weasel," and worse.

The group's latest target -- who is viewed as one of the north county's brightest political hopefuls -- is Del. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a young, conservative Republican running for nomination in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley in Maryland's 2nd District.

The latest PTU newsletter carries a cheerful photograph of Mr. Ehrlich, under a query: "Is Delegate Ehrlich the leader of the Pro-Criminal Lobby in the State Legislature?"

That's not exactly the kind of free advertising a candidate wants in a year when crime is the hot political issue. Even worse for Mr. Ehrlich is that Del. Gerry L. Brewster, a Democratic primary contender in the race for Mrs. Bentley's seat, also has used the term, "pro-criminal lobby."

At issue is Mr. Ehrlich's attitude toward a proposed state constitutional amendment that would give crime victims the right to be informed about the legal proceedings of people who have committed a crime against them.

Until this year, Mr. Ehrlich opposed bills proposing such a constitutional right, and even scoffed at them. Meanwhile, Mr. Brewster has championed the victims' rights amendment. The two delegates, both lawyers, are among 85 co-sponsors of the House version of the bill this year. If approved by the General Assembly, it would go to referendum on the November election ballot.

Mr. Ehrlich said he objected to the vague nature of earlier versions of the amendment, which he said were too open to interpretation by judges and attorneys. He also suggested that Mr. Boyd's criticism may have an ulterior motive because the tax protest leader's brother Walter ran for the House of Delegates in Mr. Ehrlich's 10th District in 1990 -- and lost.

Mr. Boyd denied that and said he wasn't aware until this week that Mr. Ehrlich is now supporting the amendment.

"That's good news," he said.

Mr. Brewster wouldn't speculate on the reasons for Mr. Ehrlich's reversal on the bill, which he insisted is "substantially the same" as the bill proposed two years ago.

Roberta Roper, who became a leader in the victims' rights movement after her daughter was murdered, said she's happy to see so many new supporters this year, even if it is through political expediency.

"Crime is the No. 1 issue for people," she said. "Even our opponents feel [the amendment] is going to pass."

Mr. Ehrlich said he isn't bothered by PTU's criticism.

"It's no big deal," he said. "My reputation down here is that I'm thoughtful."

He also issued a letter, dated Thursday, to local newspapers ridiculing the PTU critics as inaccurate and saying he has been a champion of victims' rights laws.

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