Ehrlich elects to wait before a 2002 decision

The Political Game

Delay: Republicans want the 2nd District congressman to enter the governor's race, but he won't decide until summer.

May 01, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

REP. ROBERT L. Ehrlich Jr. says he won't decide until summer whether to jump into the 2002 gubernatorial race, but the Republican dream candidate has been getting around the state and laying the groundwork for a potential campaign.

In recent weeks, Ehrlich has met with the editorial boards of several newspapers -- The Sun, the Capital in Annapolis, the Frederick News-Post and the Montgomery Gazette, among others.

He's met with the Chamber of Commerce in Montgomery County and with J. W. Marriott Jr., chairman of Marriott International Inc. and a key GOP money generator. Ehrlich is planning several fund-raisers -- tapping donors in Washington for his federal campaign account while hitting up Marylanders for a possible statewide race.

He said Sunday that he feels no pressure from other potential GOP candidates to make a quick decision about whether to try to break the Democrats' three-decade stranglehold on the State House or to stay in Congress.

Republican leaders have been throwing around the names of other potential gubernatorial candidates, including Reps. Constance A. Morella and Wayne T. Gilchrest -- but without a great deal of conviction. It's painfully obvious that the ultrasmooth Ehrlich is the name they want at the top of the ticket -- especially if the Democratic nominee is Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The 2nd District congressman said the idea of a run for governor is "intriguing," but acknowledged that leaving Congress for what would be an uphill battle is "a hard thing to do."

A Sun poll showed Townsend leading Ehrlich 57 percent to 30 percent at the start of the year, and little has happened to change the equation since then.

Ehrlich said one thing that would not influence his decision is redistricting.

He said he expects Gov. Parris N. Glendening to do his best to put Republicans at a disadvantage, but expressed confidence that the state's four GOP House members could hold on to their seats.

Noting that U.S. representatives are not required to live in their districts, Ehrlich ruled out the idea of moving if his Timonium home is thrown into another district.

"Parris Glendening is not going to force a move on [wife] Kendel or I," Ehrlich said. "We're not moving, and I'm not going to run against a Republican incumbent."

State GOP chief eyes two to run for statewide races

While most Maryland Republican eyes are fixed on the governor's race, party Chairman Michael Steele has been working on recruiting candidates for the two other statewide offices up for grabs in 2002 -- comptroller and attorney general.

Steele is promoting Kenneth Timmerman, president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, for comptroller and Scott L. Rolle, the state's attorney in Frederick County, for attorney general. The party chief said he has urged both to consider a run.

With the exception of Richard D. Bennett's challenge to Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. in 1994, Republicans have not mounted a strong campaign for either office in decades.

Curran and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer are veteran Democrats who have never lost a statewide race.

Neither Rolle nor Timmerman could come close in terms of name recognition, but Steele insisted they could be strong challengers.

"I'm looking at these two men, and I see a great deal of potential," Steele said.

Rolle said he would be interested in such a race, but is far from making a decision.

Timmerman, who won only 10 percent of the vote when he sought the GOP nod to oppose Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes last year, said he is "actively considering" a run for comptroller.

Environmentalists give Glendening a grade of B+

The League of Conservation Voters will hand Glendening a report card today that he probably won't mind hanging on the fridge.

The environmental group is giving the governor an overall "solid B+" -- an improvement on the B he earned in 1997.

Glendening pulled up his grade largely on the strength of his Smart Growth and land preservation initiatives, both of which won A's from the group.

His average was dragged down by the C+ he received for administration, reflecting environmentalists' discontent with Maryland's anti-pollution enforcement efforts.

The league raised Glendening's grade on transportation policy to a B from 1997's D, rewarding his abandonment of support for the proposed Inter-County Connector between Interstate 270 and Interstate 95.

Michelle Byrnie, the governor's press secretary, said the league's score was "a fair grade that does reflect the progress Governor Glendening has made over the past four years."

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