Giuliani rallies for Ehrlich at $1,000-a-head fund-raiser

GOP candidate, Townsend make last appeal for votes

Election 2002

November 04, 2002|By Sarah Koenig and David Nitkin | Sarah Koenig and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Never mind that one is quintessential New York and the other pure Arbutus. Yesterday, standing on stage in the middle of a Gaithersburg fairground, they were two-of-a-kind -- at least according to former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

At an afternoon rally that brought together about 600 of the Republican Party faithful, Giuliani described gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as a fellow moderate better suited than his opponent to lead Maryland in a crisis such as last year's terrorist attacks.

"Particularly in the job of governor in this difficult time, competence and capability means everything, absolutely everything. And Bob Ehrlich has proven that he has the ability to lead," Giuliani said, once the crowd stopped chanting "Ru-dy! Ru-dy!"

"Who would you trust to take care of you?" he added.

Like Ehrlich, Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spent the day going to churches and attending rallies across the state in a furious effort to try to make sure voters show up at the polls for what is expected to be a tight election.

Although her campaign schedule has been grueling for the past week, Townsend believes the rapid succession of rallies and appearances is worthwhile. "It gets people energized and excited. I'm going to make sure everybody knows how hard I'm fighting," she said.

Further showing the importance of black voters to their campaigns, both candidates began the day with visits to African-American churches in Prince George's County. Ehrlich and running mate Michael S. Steele attended Jericho City of Praise in Landover, the site of a rally for Townsend two days earlier that featured former President Bill Clinton.

Ehrlich received a standing ovation at Jericho, telling the congregation he would return -- win or lose.

Townsend visited four churches in Prince George's, while her mother, husband and three eldest daughters each separately visited and spoke at two different African-American churches in Baltimore -- for a family total of 14. Townsend stayed for the entire service at From the Heart Ministries in Temple Hills, where its pastor, the Rev. John A. Cherry, implored the congregation of 2,000 to vote tomorrow.

"The first vote I cast in my life was for your uncle," Cherry told Townsend, seated in the front row, referring to John F. Kennedy. "It was your father [Robert F. Kennedy] who made me politically aware. They always seemed to want to fight the battle for the little people. ... I'm believing that you are genetically encoded."

Ehrlich went to a morning rally for Jewish voters at Joan and Gary's Original Bagels in Pikesville before heading to Gaithersburg. At a pre-rally fund-raiser, a largely business crowd filled a room at the Gaithersburg Hilton. They paid $1,000 each to attend, or $2,000 each for a picture with Giuliani.

The campaign estimated Giuliani attracted at least $600,000 in donations. As of Oct. 25, Ehrlich had raised nearly $9 million to Townsend's $8 million, making this race the most expensive in Maryland history. Both campaigns have spent millions on television advertisements.

Asked why Ehrlich needed more cash, campaign aide John Reith said 11th-hour mailings and television buys were to come. "Those checks go very fast," he said.

"I think that Giuliani has touched a strain in this country, about what patriotism really is. He's a model of what courage can and should be," said Shelly Kamins, a Potomac real estate developer who is Ehrlich's finance co-chairman in Montgomery County. "It really says something that he's here."

In contrast to the hotel event, the fairground rally had an old-fashioned, country feel. A band, whose members wore sequined vests, shared the stage with the politicians and played songs such as "God Bless America."

Calling Giuliani "America's mayor," Ehrlich introduced him to the crowd of supporters and urged them to keep agitating for the next 48 hours. "The goal here is not just to win, it's to win not close," he said in what has become his grammatically ambitious battle cry of recent weeks.

Ehrlich advertised the event as a celebration of public safety, although few police officers and firefighters attended.

Even so, Giuliani noted the many public safety endorsements Ehrlich has garnered, saying, "I am very, very impressed by the support that Bob has received from the police in the state of Maryland, because I understand what that means."

Before flying away in a helicopter waiting across the field, Giuliani underscored the campaign's message that Ehrlich's politics are in tune with Maryland voters, most of whom are Democrats.

"Bob's opponent has attacked him for being too conservative. Well, first of all he is fiscally conservative. What's wrong with that in a state that has a big budget deficit?" he said. "But the fact is that Bob is the kind of Republican that I feel very, very strongly about, because he makes me feel not alone in the Republican Party. He is, I guess, what you would describe as socially moderate."

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