Governor says he has earned a second term

Ehrlich announces his bid for re-election

Maryland Votes 2006


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. returned yesterday to the modest Arbutus rowhouse where he grew up to formally announce his campaign for re-election, saying that he has fulfilled his promises to the people and needs four more years to put Maryland on the right path.

The 48-year-old Republican emphasized his progress in eliminating budget deficits in Annapolis, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and stopping Democrats in the General Assembly from raising taxes. He did not outline a platform for his second term but said he deserves another four years in Annapolis because he has done what he said he would.

"You better follow up on your commitments. You better keep your word. You better put dollars where you said you would. ... You've got to keep your commitments," Ehrlich said to hundreds of his supporters who turned Dolores Avenue into a virtual block party, with a live band and a hot dog stand.

"I sincerely hope the reason you're out here today in the hot sun is the keeping of commitments, and the hot dogs ain't bad, either," Ehrlich said.

Today, the governor plans to follow up his announcement by naming a new running mate to replace Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Several names have circulated for several months, but a source close to the governor said last night that Kristen Cox, the secretary of the state Department of Disabilities, will be the nominee.

Standing on his parents' front porch with his shirtsleeves rolled up, Ehrlich displayed the everyman charm and humor that have kept his personal popularity high throughout his term. But his easygoing manner yesterday belied the difficulty of the race at hand.

No incumbent governor in Maryland has lost a re-election bid since 1950, but Ehrlich comes into this race as the self-proclaimed underdog. He leads a state where Democrats have a roughly 2-to-1 advantage in voter registration and faces an aggressive challenge from Mayor Martin O'Malley, the presumed Democratic nominee, whose base of support extends into the Baltimore suburbs that were the key to Ehrlich's victory four years ago.

Ehrlich has trailed O'Malley in every published poll for months, including a new survey released by The Washington Post yesterday that showed him with an 11-point deficit among registered voters and 16 points down among those most likely to vote.

He is girding for what most close observers expect to be a grueling and highly negative race in which he and O'Malley will exchange heated salvos about their records as managers. Ehrlich will have unprecedented financial resources to bring his message to the people - he is expected to raise and spend as much as $20 million for the race - and he is known as a tough and spirited campaigner.

The governor didn't use O'Malley's name in his brief announcement speech, but he attacked the mayor, calling him a whiner and promising a sustained attack on the failures of Baltimore City schools.

"We're going to compete hard. We're going to engage. We're going to debate. We're going to engage the monopoly again, and this time we're going to bring the monopoly down," he said, referring to the state's Democratic establishment.

"But there's one thing we're not going to do. We're not going to whine, because that reminds me of ... ," he said, grinning at the crowd as his voice trailed off. "Never mind. Whining is not leadership. ... We do not whine. We don't whine, and we don't follow. We lead."

The governor listed a few of his accomplishments of his first term, including his efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, paid for by a monthly fee on sewage bills and septic tanks, commonly known as the "Flush Tax."

He said he inherited a $4 billion deficit and turned it into a $2.5 billion surplus. He has previously used the figure of $2 billion in speeches, which is rounded up from fiscal projections showing $1.7 billion in surpluses. Furthermore, the same method that predicted a $4 billion deficit when Ehrlich took office indicates a $3 billion deficit for the next governor early next year.

He also said he helped improve the state's education system by pushing for charter schools and increasing funding statewide. He increased spending on schools by a record amount, as he was required to do by a law passed the year before he took office.

"We put the dollars in, and scores are up, with one exception, and we'll be talking about that a lot in the campaign, about the failed management in that case," Ehrlich said, referring to Baltimore schools.

Ehrlich said he has blocked $7.5 billion in taxes from becoming law, a line that got a louder "amen" from the crowd than the prayer that started the event. He has used the $7.5 billion figure before but has not explained how he arrived at it.

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