Well-wishers jam city club to see Ehrlich

January 14, 2003|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Michael S. Steele showcased their chummy rapport last night at a $20-a-ticket inaugural "jam" at the Hammerjacks nightclub in downtown Baltimore.

"How's everybody doing?" Lt. Governor-elect Steele asked the crowd of several hundred people - a largely African-American turnout.

But when he received only mild applause, Steele declared, "We're about to usher in the biggest change in Maryland government in 40 years and that's the best you can do? How's everybody doing?"

"Woo-hoo!" the crowd exploded.

"Trust me," Ehrlich told them. "Some lieutenant governors around the country are show horses. They're there for icing. Michael Steele ran this transition ... which is good, because come springtime, the governor's going to be playing some golf."

The party was the day's second preinaugural event for Ehrlich. Earlier, in Annapolis, he bought legislators lunch and gave them cookies and cufflinks depicting the state seal.

Some people came to Hammerjacks to get an up-close glimpse of the new governor, or because they couldn't afford the $100 ticket to the inaugural balls being held tomorrow night at the Convention Center and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Others, such as Kevin Parson, an education consultant from Baltimore, attended to congratulate the new administration.

Parson is a Democrat, but said he is hopeful that Ehrlich can do something about the projected state budget shortfall of $1.8 billion for the current and coming fiscal years. And, he said, he would like to see charter schools become legal here.

"I predicted it," he said of the GOP win. "The Republicans talked about issues that the Democratic Party is dropping the ball on."

Still, Parson is not discouraged. "This could be a good thing, because we'll be able to re-establish ourselves as a party," he said.

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