Ehrlich, O'Malley bag endorsements

Accusations fly over crime-fighting records as election inches closer

October 06, 2006|By Andrew A. Green and Greg Garland | Andrew A. Green and Greg Garland,sun reporters

Amid an intensifying debate in the gubernatorial campaign about crime-fighting, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. accepted the endorsement of the state Fraternal Order of Police yesterday.

Leaders in the union, which also endorsed Ehrlich four years ago, praised the Republican for his leadership. But hours earlier, members of another law enforcement union, which has endorsed Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley for governor, questioned whether Ehrlich has properly supported state troopers during his term.

Leaders of the state FOP, which represents 18,000 police officers and retirees statewide, said Ehrlich has the superior record of commitment to Maryland's police and a solid record of accomplishments.

"There are a number of things our people seek out," said Cole B. Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police. "They seek out an environment where they know they have true support. They seek out that kind of leadership. They thirst for that kind of leadership."

Ehrlich got 83 percent of the vote from FOP members, which he said is testament to his commitment to keeping the public safe.

"That is a statement by the people who get up every day, put on uniforms and protect us," Ehrlich said.

The endorsement comes amid a major push by the Ehrlich campaign to question O'Malley's record on crime in the city, an effort that has included harsh criticism in two television commercials, as well as direct mail. O'Malley has defended himself and counter-attacked, saying that Ehrlich failed to follow through on a promise to end parole for violent criminals, leading to more crime.

O'Malley's running mate, Del. Anthony G. Brown, held a news conference yesterday with Edward E. Eicher, president of the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance, who said Ehrlich has failed to provide proper support for uniformed officers who work for the state.

The alliance, a labor group that is a bargaining agent for Maryland State Police and uniformed law enforcement officers in several other state agencies, has endorsed O'Malley.

Pay and benefits lag behind those in neighboring states, Eicher said. He also said that officers in some agencies are poorly equipped -- including some Department of Natural Resources police who lack portable radios that they would need to call for assistance if they were in trouble.

O'Malley also has been endorsed by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92, bargaining agent for correctional officers and many other state workers.

On Wednesday, Ehrlich was endorsed by the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which has some state troopers, correctional officers and others as members.

andy.green@baltsun.com greg.garland@baltsun.com

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