Ehrlich says he did not ignore Balto. Co. executive

November 12, 2006|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. denied yesterday accusations by Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. that the governor has refused in recent years to communicate with the top official of his home county - one that played a key role in Ehrlich's failed re-election bid last week.

"I've been with Jim Smith dozens and dozens and dozens of times, on many occasions, and [we] worked together on a lot of things, so that's kind of silly and political," Ehrlich said in response to a question on the Stateline program on WBAL-AM.

A moderate Democrat in a vote-rich suburban county that was critical to the Republican governor's victory in 2002, Smith campaigned this year for Ehrlich's opponent, Democratic Mayor Martin O'Malley, listing an unresponsive governor as a chief reason.

"[Ehrlich] never returned one of my phone calls," Smith said in a Sun article yesterday. "Not one, and he never personally responded to a piece of correspondence, either."

Political observers have said that Ehrlich's failure to cultivate a positive relationship with county leadership may have hurt his chances at four more years in Annapolis.

Four years ago, Ehrlich won 61 percent of the vote in Baltimore County. Last week, he received just half of the votes there.

"The governor tries to equate shaking hands in a Fourth of July parade to sitting down and trying to solve real problems for the people of Baltimore County," said Donald I. Mohler, a spokesman for Smith, yesterday. "But it's time to leave all of that behind. It's time to govern."

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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