Ehrlich praises Smart Growth

Glendening's program `common sense,' he says

Highlights campaign strategies

Gubernatorial candidate hopes to raise $8 million

May 01, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Giving unexpected praise to one of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's signature programs, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. pledged yesterday to continue many of Maryland's Smart Growth policies.

"Smart Growth to me is a lot of common sense," said Ehrlich, the expected Republican nominee for governor.

The Baltimore County congressman praised efforts to redevelop older urban areas such as Silver Spring, and he also singled out two of Glendening's land preservation initiatives, Open Space and Rural Legacy. "Those programs work," he said.

In a wide-ranging lunchtime interview with reporters, Ehrlich promised he will work hard to reach out to black voters, appearing on urban radio stations and at churches. Next week, he'll be at Baltimore's New Psalmist Baptist Church to help announce a federally supported effort to refurbish rundown subsidized housing in the neighborhood. "I'm going places Republican candidates have never gone," he said.

Acknowledging that early polls indicate black voters overwhelmingly back Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat, he predicted he could make inroads into her support.

Ehrlich also said he aims to raise $8 million for the campaign, though he said he would need less if there's a competitive Democratic primary.

Ehrlich has raised more than $2.3 million, while Townsend has raised almost $6 million. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is raising millions of dollars as he weighs challenging Townsend in the Democratic primary.

While Townsend has not set a fund-raising target, she seems sure to exceed $8 million, making the gubernatorial campaign the most expensive in state history. In 1998, the Glendening-Townsend ticket and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey each spent about $6.2 million.

Yesterday's two-hour meeting with reporters at his east Towson campaign headquarters was an effort by Ehrlich to highlight some of his public relations strategies as he seeks to become Maryland's first GOP governor in more than three decades.

Billing it as "Burgers with Bob," Ehrlich invited reporters to ask him about anything related to the campaign - poking fun at off-the-record lunches that Townsend began having with individual reporters during the General Assembly session.

Ehrlich also challenged Townsend to meet him for a series of public conversations and debates, holding up the low-key vice presidential debate two years ago as a model.

"The people deserve a big-time, full and open conversation," he said. "They deserve to have both candidates sit in a room with all of you here, with cameras and with very little interference from a moderator."

A spokesman for Townsend said it's too early to begin discussing debates, as the lieutenant governor won't officially announce her candidacy until Sunday. But he dismissed Ehrlich's attempt to paint Townsend as being closed off from the media.

"She is extremely open," said William R. Mann, her assistant chief of staff. "She is extremely accessible. She is extremely proud of her record, and she is looking forward to talking about it with all Marylanders."

Ehrlich qualified his support for Smart Growth in one area - criticizing Glendening's occasional efforts to overrule actions by local jurisdictions, particularly in Carroll County, by threatening to withhold state aid. "I get very concerned when I see preemption of local zoning decisions," Ehrlich said.

Also during yesterday's interview, Ehrlich said:

He will announce next week his process for selecting a running mate. He acknowledged that geography will be important, but said the crucial factor will be finding a lieutenant governor with whom he has "a personal, philosophical comfort."

He supports building an additional highway crossing over the Potomac River between Montgomery County and Virginia. He also would prefer to build a new Metro "purple line" linking Montgomery and Prince George's counties outside Interstate 495, as is sought by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. Glendening seeks to put it inside the Capital Beltway.

His wife, Kendel, is putting together a June 4 fashion show fund-raiser at Martin's West that she hopes will raise as much as $90,000. "You're going to see very unique things done in this campaign," Ehrlich said. "We're thinking very outside of the box."

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