Ehrlich sees little future for himself in politics

But governor predicts bright prospects for Steele

November 11, 2006|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. all but ruled out another run for public office but said in two radio interviews yesterday that he is keeping his career options open in the wake of his failed re-election bid.

The Republican made his first extensive comments since Tuesday's election on two radio talk shows he has frequented as governor: the Chip Franklin Show on WBAL-AM and the Sports Junkies on WHFS-FM. The governor struck an upbeat tone on both shows, even though he said the election demonstrated that the state has moved away from him politically.

"It's been a great 20-year run here," said Ehrlich, who served as a member of the House of Delegates and U.S. House of Representatives before his 2002 gubernatorial win. "It's just been a really great experience, but you also have to be realistic about where you are, what state you live in and what the trend lines are and what people want."

A caller to Franklin's show suggested Ehrlich should run for president, but the governor pooh-poohed the idea. "It's a bad week to be talking about that," the governor said. "Obviously, losing a gubernatorial race is not necessarily a great predicate for a run for anything else, particularly nationally."

(He would, however, be the third man in the last 50 years to lose a governor's race and later become president, following Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.)

Though Ehrlich said his political future is dim, he added that the prospects for his lieutenant governor, Michael S. Steele, are limitless. Ehrlich said he had heard rumors that Steele could be in line for the top spot at the Republican National Committee or other major posts in Washington.

Steele ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, losing to U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.

"He proved himself to be a very capable lieutenant governor, first, and then a very capable candidate," Ehrlich said on WBAL. "I think Mike will have a future in elective politics. I think he most likely will run again in the state of Maryland, and I will encourage him to do so."

Ehrlich will continue in office until mid-January, when Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley will be sworn in. Until then, he will also continue to live in the governor's mansion. Ehrlich said on WHFS that he and his wife, Kendel, and two sons, Drew and Josh, will likely stay in the Annapolis area.

The governor said he has not given much thought yet to what his future will hold. He said on WHFS that he isn't interested in lobbying but could return to law or other fields. He also said that former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who campaigned for him in 2002 and 2006, called after the election and said he wants to meet with the governor to discuss his future.

"I really don't have any idea what I'm going to do," Ehrlich said. "Some people have called with ideas, but I'm going to take my time."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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