Gilchrest son: Ehrlich's "egocentric motivations" delivered 1st District to Democrats
Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. got strongly behind Sen. Andy Harris in the 1st District congressional race. With Ehrlich's backing, Harris offed Republican incumbent Wayne Gilchrest in the primary. But Harris was bested by Frank Kratovil, a little-known Queen Anne's County state's attorney, in the General Election.
Ehrlich has received a lot of attention for endorsing Harris, but not much blame for his role in sending the seat into the Democratic column.
Gilchrest's son, Kevin, a teacher at the Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown, has penned a blistering critique of Ehrlich's actions. Kevin Gilchrest calls Ehrlich "egocentric," and said the former governor got involved in the race mainly to bolster his own chances for a political comeback. Ehrlich's actions, Gilchrest writes, have highlighted the "utter and complete dysfunction of the Republican Party in the state of Maryland. Ehrlich orchestrated, Gilchrest said, the Republicans' "eating one of their own."
The letter was sent to the Baltimore Sun's editorial board, which gave it to us. With Kevin Gilchrest's permission, it is being published here, past the jump. To be sure, Kevin Gilchrest is not an objective observer. But his points are worth considering, and are likely shared by many Republicans in Maryland.
Frank Kratovil has won the race for the 1st Congressional District. The idea of a Kratovil victory was treated as a joke by his opponent, Sen. Andy Harris, during the campaign. Kratovil’s victory, though, which included a sweep of all nine Eastern Shore counties, is glaring evidence of the utter and complete dysfunction of the Republican Party in the state of Maryland.
Standing atop the ruins of the dilapidated GOP is former Governor Bobby Ehrlich, who heartily endorsed and campaigned for Harris, against incumbent Republican Wayne Gilchrest.
Ehrlich’s motivation for doing so was two-fold.
First, his personal politcal ambition: Ehrlich needed a strong ally in the First District to bolster support in the region for another gubernatorial run. Orchestrating Gilchrest’s defeat would accomplish this, he believed, as well as increase his stature in both the party and the state. Secondly, he had a personal vendetta against Republican Wayne Gilchrest due to the congressman’s strong, vocal opposition to Ehrlich’s push for slots in Maryland.
Ehrlich’s support for Harris was rejected by some in the GOP who worred that, by knocking off Gilchrest, an opening would be created for a strong Democrat challenger. Enter Frank Kratovil: young, charismatic, articulate, and well-funded. Ehrlich and Harris ultimately did what the Democrats could never have done: defeat Wayne Gilchrest, whose lowest vote total over the previous three general elections was 69 percent.
On paper, this race was an open seat pitting Kratovil against Harris. But in a larger sense, this contest was a battle between the two Republican giants in the state: Wayne Gilchrest vs. Bobby Ehrlich, with Frank Kratovil and Andy Harris serving as their surrogates.
It will be a while before the dust settles. But what is abundantly clear now is the fact that Bob Ehrlich’s two egocentric motivations concerning this race – his white-hot political ambition and his quest for revenge against Wayne Gilchrest – have cancelled each other out. By successfully ousting a fellow Republican, by eating one of his own, Bobby Ehrlich delivered the First District to the Democrats on a silver platter and in so doing, bust up his own political future.