Kin of late GOP governor endorse Democrat Townsend

July 18, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

The son and daughter-in-law of one of Maryland's few modern Republican governors endorsed the Democratic gubernatorial ticket of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Charles R. Larson yesterday, agreeing to lead a committee of Republicans for Townsend.

Theodore R. McKeldin Jr., the son of the former Baltimore mayor and governor, and Courtney J. McKeldin said they accepted the Townsend campaign's offer to organize a Republican group because they find the lieutenant governor intelligent, articulate and compassionate. "We are moderate-to-liberal Republicans," said Theodore McKeldin, an assistant attorney general. "I have nothing against her opponent."

Courtney McKeldin said she came to know Townsend through work on the Governor's Commission on Service and Volunteerism, and was "extremely impressed."

The announcement underscores efforts by Townsend and her likely Republican opponent, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., to make inroads outside their parties. With neither candidate facing significant primary opposition, they are free to reach beyond their traditional bases for new voters.

Townsend surprised many when she selected Larson, a retired four-star admiral, as her running mate last month. He had been registered as a Republican less than three weeks before the announcement.

Earlier, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, a Democrat, considered switching parties to join Ehrlich's ticket.

At yesterday's annual Tawes crab feast in Crisfield, Townsend called the endorsement "very significant."

"As you know, Courtney McKeldin said I share many of the views her father teached - tolerance, brotherhood and human freedom," Townsend said as she was surrounded by a throng of cheering supporters. "That is consistent to the kind of politics I am bringing to the state."

The elder McKeldin was governor from 1951 to 1959 and served as Baltimore's mayor from 1943 to 1947 and again from 1963 to 1967.

With Democrats outnumbering Republicans nearly 2-to-1 in Maryland, party crossover voting is far more crucial to Ehrlich, however, than to Townsend.

Ehrlich campaign aide Paul E. Schurick said a similar group of Democrats for Ehrlich was being organized, and its leaders would be announced in several weeks.

"We are going to have a significant statewide coalition of Democrats for Bob," Schurick said, as well as a Baltimore-area group.

Sun staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this article.

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