O'Malley defeats Ehrlich

Says state 'not out of the deep hole,' but 'coming back'

November 03, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz, Annie Linskey and Liz Kay, The Baltimore Sun

Shouts and honking horns greeted Gov. Martin O'Malley as he joined supporters in Baltimore to wave signs and thank voters the morning after Election Day.

Elizabeth Fields, 56, snapped several cell phone photos of Democrat O'Malley as the group gathered at Druid Hill and W. North Ave between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. She found out about the event on Tuesday night's news and thought it would be a great opportunity to meet him.

Fields, who is on disability, said she supported O'Malley's re-election bid because she was concerned about jobs and the economy. "Knowing what O'Malley has done, I see improvements," she said. "I see where things are getting a little better." O'Malley cruised to a second term Tuesday — and with it, won the opportunity to guide the state in what he hopes will be an improving economy — while Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. suffered a second consecutive statewide defeat, leaving his political future in doubt.

The much-anticipated rematch between the Maryland political heavyweights began as a dead heat, but polls in recent weeks had shown O'Malley pulling away from his longtime rival. Defying a national Republican surge, he beat Ehrlich by a wider margin than during their initial race in 2006.

Momoh A. Conteh, who lives in the Roland Park area and participated in this morning's event, said he stopped being worried about the governor's race as Election Day neared.

"As time progressed and we saw the numbers, we grew more and more confident every day," Conteh, a human resources director, said, adding that campaign workers didn't grow complacent. "The most important poll is Nov. 2. The campaign never took it for granted."

As the O'Malley group stood in a clutch of bright green signs, a bus driver stopped to jokingly complain about all the television news trucks parked at his bus stop. The governor hopped through the open door and waved his sign at passengers.

O'Malley took the stage at his Election Night celebration in Baltimore about 10:40 p.m. to thank voters for sending him back to Annapolis.

"The people of Maryland decided once again that we move Maryland forward," the 47-year-old former Baltimore mayor thundered, repeating his campaign theme. Flanked by his wife, Katie Curran O'Malley, and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, he highlighted his work in protecting priorities such as the Chesapeake Bay and public education even as he cut the state budget amid declining state revenues.

"We're not out of the deep hole," he said. "But we are coming back. … Tonight we chose a better future for the children of Maryland."

Ehrlich, addressing supporters at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, congratulated O'Malley.

"We wish him well and the state well," the former governor said. "This is our state."

Toward the end of the campaign, O'Malley had taken to calling Maryland a "bright spot" for Democrats in an election season that saw many in the party facing tough re-election battles.

Maryland, home to more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, also re-elected Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Comptroller Peter Franchot, both Democrats, and affirmed the party's majorities in the House of Delegates and state Senate.

O'Malley's campaign manager said Democrats nationally might consider Maryland "a success story to be studied."

"A lot of incumbent Democrats are doing very poorly," Tom Russell said. "People will be looking to see what was the difference here."

Voter turnout was "right in line" with other recent gubernatorial elections, said deputy elections administrator Ross Goldstein. About 60 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, either on Election Day, absentee or, for the first time, during six days of early voting.

Ehrlich's defeat in what was a good year for his party elsewhere could send the state's most popular Republican, a 52-year-old who held elected office for two decades, into political retirement. Ehrlich has said in recent days that he was unlikely to run for office again if he lost.

In 2006, O'Malley rode an anti-Republican wave to best Ehrlich by 6.5 percentage points. After leaving office in January 2007, the former governor managed a Baltimore law office and hosted a talk-radio show with his wife, Kendel.

Republican wins in Virginia, New Jersey last fall and Massachusetts in January, coupled with negative reverberations about President Barack Obama and the national health care debate, stoked Ehrlich's interest in a return bid.

Kendel Ehrlich nudged her husband into the race, the former governor has said, and she said Tuesday that she had "no regrets."

"He ran the campaign that he wanted to run," she said. "This was the year to do it."

In a state with overwhelmingly Democratic registration, Ehrlich's chances hinged on voters being willing to put aside their party affiliation, said his campaign spokesman, Henry Fawell. "We always knew this would be a high-wire act in Maryland," he said.

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