U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. might run for governor, and if he does, he can count on big support from Carroll County.
That's the message Carroll's Republican leadership delivered to the Baltimore County Republican yesterday as he made a quick trip through Westminster. Ehrlich spoke at a fund-raising breakfast for Republican Del. Joseph M. Getty and had to deflect several direct suggestions that he enter the gubernatorial race. Ehrlich has said he will not announce his intentions until at least next month.
Still, he acknowledged the visit was part of an exploration that will help him decide if a statewide campaign is worth his while.
The county's political leaders seem secure in their affection for Ehrlich, who first won his seat in 1994.
"I think from my perspective in Annapolis, we need a governor who is balanced and fair," Getty said. "He would approach the governorship as a statesman and give every county respect," Getty said of Ehrlich. "We don't have that in the governor's office now."
Republican state Sen. Larry E. Haines has also been a fervent booster of an Ehrlich run for governor. Each compliment for Ehrlich yesterday carried with it implied distaste for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has often singled out Carroll as a Smart Growth delinquent. Ehrlich drew perhaps his biggest ovation of the morning when he said, "I have to get in my shot at Parris here."
He then said Glendening had taken an unprecedented poison to Annapolis. Later, during an interview, he said of Glendening: "He picks on counties where his performance is not very good. That's the bottom line."
Glendening lost decisively in Carroll to Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in 1994 and 1998. To win in Maryland, a Republican gubernatorial candidate would have to get about 70 percent of the Carroll vote, Ehrlich estimated. When asked if his studies have indicated he could do that well in Carroll, Ehrlich said, "We're pretty close."
The congressman lives in Mays Chapel and draws much of his support from the northern Baltimore County residents whose conservatism resembles that of their neighbors across the border in Carroll.