Ehrlich visits Carroll on `listening tour'

Support cultivated for potential races

July 08, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Nearly 100 local politicians and business leaders packed a small reception room at Wilhelm Caterers in Westminster yesterday to show support for Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is considering a run for statewide office.

Ehrlich, 41, a Baltimore County Republican, has not said what job he intends to seek. He has expressed interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who plans to seek re-election next year, and has hinted at a possible gubernatorial run in 2002.

"I would support him no matter which office he runs for," said Republican state Sen. Larry E. Haines, head of Carroll County's legislative delegation.

He and Ehrlich served together in the state legislature for eight years. "His voting record is pretty much the same as mine. He's pro-business," Haines said.

County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, a Republican, echoed Haines' comments: "He's very energetic and concerned about what's happening in Carroll County. Whatever his future hopes are, I support him."

Members of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee and leaders of the Landowners Association, among others, also pledged their support.

Ehrlich, who is serving his third term in Congress, characterized his visit to Carroll County as a "listening tour," and compared it to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's swing through New York, where she is considering running for the U.S. Senate.

Throughout the day, at meetings with State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes and members of the farming community, Ehrlich urged local leaders to let him know what issues concern them.

He will tour Western Maryland today, traveling to Cumberland and Allegany County to meet with officials at Mettiki Coal Co. and CSX Corp.

While in Westminster yesterday, Ehrlich outlined some of his goals for the coming year, including a reduction in the capital gains tax and an increase in defense spending.

"You only guarantee peace when you remain strong," he said. "You can't do defense on the cheap."

He criticized Gov. Parris N. Glendening for "seeking revenge" against counties, such as Carroll, that did not support Democrats in the November elections.

"The Democrats viewed the November election as a vote for more taxes and more regulation," said Ehrlich. "They are giving the folks who put them in office everything they want, and seeking revenge against counties that didn't vote so politically correct. Carroll County deserves better."

In January, Glendening eliminated funding for a police training center in Sykesville and long-planned bypasses for Manchester and Westminster. Local officials viewed the projects as vital to the county's economic development. Glendening said the plans conflicted with his Smart Growth initiative, which seeks to protect rural areas and stop sprawl.

Ehrlich has raised more than $500,000 for his federal campaign committee -- money that could be used for a Senate bid or for a campaign for re-election to the House next year. He has also raised $100,000 for his state campaign committee. Those contributions could be used in a gubernatorial run in 2002.

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