Ehrlich keeps talking on the air until papers are filed

Commentary

April 11, 2010|By Jean Marbella | jean.marbella@baltsun.com

On his first radio show since announcing for the governor's race, Bob Ehrlich went bipartisan and graciously welcomed someone he called his friend and Democratic candidate for the same office.

George Owings.

Well that will silence the equal-time whiners, fretting that the Republican Ehrlich would use his two-hour slot on WBAL every Saturday as free advertising, an extended me-me-me commercial for his political campaign.

Owings, a former delegate from Southern Maryland, is indeed a Democrat and indeed running for governor. But as such, and as Ehrlich himself noted, Owings is Gov. Martin O'Malley's opponent - that's who Owings would have to beat first in the Democratic primary before going up against Ehrlich in the general election.

As if. That matchup is as unlikely as it would be amusing in sort of a frenemy kind of way, given that Owings was Ehrlich's veterans affairs secretary and, judging from Saturday's show, lines up with him on everything from slots (shoulda passed Ehrlich's bill) to same-sex marriages (shouldn't allow) to illegal immigrants (shouldn't be here).

All that darned unanimity - "I agree with you." "This is another issue you and I agree on." - wouldn't make for much of a political race, or frankly, much of a talk show.

But that's where we are at this point: Ehrlich says he's keeping the show until July when he plans to file the paperwork that makes his candidacy official, and, apparently, when the equal-time provision would kick in.

In reality, Ehrlich is a candidate and has been even before he formally announced on Wednesday, which came about a week after he announced he was going to announce, which in turn came after months of saying he was going to announce whether he would be a candidate.

I know: a totally gripping, edge-of-your-seat run-up if you're a state politics geek, and a who-cares, white-noise blur if you're in the other 99.999 percent of the population.

But what this demonstrates is that today's political races are regulated, if they're regulated at all, by Saturday's rules of engagement. It's basically a free-for-all these days, when a campaign begins or ends, what constitutes such things as "the media" or "broadcasting" in a live-streaming, 24/7-connected world.

So, yes, it's hardly fair that one candidate has control of two hours on the radio every weekend, and that he's had them for the past three years and he'll have them for another several months. Given how balkanized the media and their audience are these days, no one expects to find any talk radio show to provide any more than one point of view.

For now, The Kendel and Bob Show goes on. For all the talk that this would not be "a grudge match," a do-over of the 2006 race that he lost to O'Malley, from Saturday's show, it's obvious some of that same ground will be covered.

When a caller grumbled that O'Malley got votes from prisoners and ACORN, the now shuttered advocacy group and favorite conservative target, Ehrlich couldn't resist taking the bait.

"The fact of it is, we did lose, it was fair and square," Ehrlich said. "There might have been shenanigans. ... ACORN might have had a role."

Ehrlich also vowed to "revisit" the BGE rate-increase issue that shaped much of the 2006 race, as well as the inescapable slots debate. Saturday, he went further back than his own slots efforts, raising the 1990s-era deal that then-Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he had with then-Gov. Parris Glendening. (I'll save you the research: Schmoke said Glendening reneged on a promise to support slots to fund education, prompting Schmoke to support a Glendening opponent in the 1998 Democratic primary for governor; Glendening said there never was a slots deal in the first place.)

From this ancient episode of Deal or No Deal, though, Ehrlich eventually returned to the present, slamming the current administration's green-energy initiatives, promoting Tea Party events and, inevitably, continuing the same argument that he and O'Malley have been having since last they ran against each other: how and when and under what circumstances they will debate.

In the meantime, the Ehrlichs have the mic for several more months - and maybe one of them will have it beyond that, they hinted Saturday while discussing how the show would continue in its current format until he filed his candidacy papers.

"Then," Kendel Ehrlich said in a stay-tuned tone, "another show will continue."

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