O'Malley moves to reassure and mobilize voters

Campaign Day

Maryland Votes 2006

October 30, 2006|By John Fritze and Doug Donovan | John Fritze and Doug Donovan,Sun reporters

Speaking to a small group in Arbutus — Delivering a message that is certain to become a mantra for Democrats in coming days, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley leaned heavily on his supporters yesterday to turn out at the polls on Nov. 7 - part of a growing get-out-the-vote effort by the party that it hopes will be a deciding factor this year.

Speaking to a small group in Arbutus - the hometown of his opponent, Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - O'Malley said that his supporters must use the remaining days before the election to encourage friends and neighbors to look beyond the computer glitches and human errors that beset the Sept. 12 primary election.

"Don't let anybody tell you that you can't vote, you shouldn't bother to vote [or that] things are too confusing to vote," O'Malley said.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1, O'Malley and other Democrats arguably have the most to gain from high turnout. O'Malley joined Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic Senate candidate, at a gospel concert at a Baltimore church last night that was also intended to rally core supporters to get out the vote.

The message - which occupied a larger portion of O'Malley's stump speech yesterday than in the past, followed a warning by Ehrlich this past week that the state is facing a shortage of absentee ballots.

Both Ehrlich and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, have said residents should consider using the absentee ballots instead of the state's electronic voting system if they are uncomfortable with the technology. More than 100,000 state voters have requested absentee ballots. The deadline for asking for the paper alternative is tomorrow.

O'Malley's campaign has charged that Ehrlich is subtly attempting to deter voters on Election Day by reminding them of problems during the primary. That election was marred by a malfunctioning electronic voter check-in system and no-show poll judges that forced some precincts to open hours late.

The governor recorded telephone messages that were sent to voters across the state suggesting they cast absentee ballots, and today, his running mate, Kristen Cox, is scheduled to cast her absentee ballot at the Baltimore County elections office. Ehrlich said recently that he will also vote absentee.

Ehrlich had a relatively light campaign schedule yesterday, with only one public appearance, a visit to a bull roast for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, known as NOBLE. The group's national vice president, Douglas DeLeaver, is an old friend of the governor's and the father of Ehrlich's campaign spokeswoman, Shareese N. DeLeaver.

Rather than stumping for votes, Ehrlich joked with the crowd of more than 100, announced the score of the Ravens game, and shook hands from table to table while attendees at the event danced at the other end of the room. Ehrlich also attended services at four churches in Prince George's County but did not disclose the appearances on his public schedule - as is his practice for such events.

The Maryland Republican Party has invested significant money and time into voter turnout efforts for this election, but Ehrlich said he isn't deeply involved. He said he occasionally makes appearances to rally the troops but that the work is largely done out of his sight.

"That's outside of my job description," he said. "I've been outside of that whole operation entirely. I pretty much just keep my normal schedule."

On a day in which his campaign received the endorsement of The Sun and a new poll in The Washington Post indicated that he has a double-digit lead in the race, O'Malley spoke at several churches in the morning and then attended what his campaign dubbed the "Democrats for Ehrlich for O'Malley rally," where the mayor stood in Arbutus with a group of Democrats who had endorsed Ehrlich in 2002.

Wayne R. Frazier, former chairman of the "Democrats for Ehrlich" group founded during the 2002 election season, said he felt betrayed by the governor because the administration did not set aside more state contract money for minority-owned firms.

"I am ashamed, embarrassed and feel very foolish for what I did," said Frazier, president of the Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors Association, speaking of his earlier support for Ehrlich. "I felt that we were played, big time."

Earlier, O'Malley delivered a 45-minute speech to Bethel AME Church in West Baltimore that drew on the words of theologians and saints, as well as a firefighter and his eldest son. Ehrlich spoke to the church last week.

"I have chosen to go into public service because of Jesus," O'Malley told the packed church, which included nearly every African-American member of his Cabinet as well as his wife, Katie Curran O'Malley. "I would not have gone into public service were it not for the teachings of Jesus."

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