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November 6, 2010

Ehrlich silent on robocalls

Former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made his most extensive public comments to date about his recent election defeat but had nothing to say about automated phone calls ordered by an operative who said he was working for his campaign.

Democrats have demanded an explanation from the Republican Ehrlich about the Election Day calls, which appeared designed to suppress voter turnout in heavily Democratic Baltimore. Julius Henson, whose companies were paid more than $97,000 by Ehrlich's campaign, acknowledged Friday that he was behind the calls after they were tracked by The Baltimore Sun.

Ehrlich offered a post-mortem on the campaign, and his 24-year career in politics, in a phone call to his wife Kendel's Saturday morning talk show on WBAL radio. During the six-minute conversation, he repeatedly thanked supporters and urged young people to remain involved in politics.

But his tone, and the overall thrust of his comments, was anything but upbeat. At one point, his wife appeared to suggest that Ehrlich regretted his decision to seek a rematch against Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Alluding to their private conversations at home, she said there were no regrets about the campaign "other than possibly the regret of making a decision" to run.

"You knew in your gut it was going to be difficult and uphill," she added.

Ehrlich made a late entry into the race last spring, and his fundraising never caught up to the incumbent's. In a strong year for Republicans, he was defeated by more than 13 percentage points, double the gap in his loss to O'Malley in 2006, a much weaker Republican year.

Ehrlich said he was well aware, going into the race, that Maryland Democrats had built a "huge ratio" in voter registration during the 2008 presidential election and held roughly 60 percent of the state's registered voters to just 26 percent for Republicans.

"But we knew that when we got in the race, obviously, and so . . .," he said, his voice trailing off.

"We thought the tide might carry it through," his wife quickly chimed in, referring to Republican victories in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts last year that encouraged Ehrlich to try again.

The former governor said that for a Republican to challenge a Democrat in Maryland, "you have to be real perfect here, there's no doubt about it."

His wife, who some see as a future candidate, had a gloomy prognosis for Maryland Republicans.

"It's going to be very difficult, with redistricting, going forward, for the party in general, difficult for the party to raise money," she said.

But she also said, of the just completed campaign, there would be "no Monday morning quarterbacking this to death. There's no regrets. We gave it one last stand. We've got the flag."

Ehrlich agreed, remarking that there were "very few decisions we would not have made" during the campaign.

He acknowledged that he'd been hurt by attack ads and by his failure to raise enough money to mount an adequate response.

"Negative ads really do work, particularly if you don't have the money to meet them," he said. "Particularly in the Washington suburbs, we got hit hard there and did not have the money to respond."

Ehrlich set out to make Montgomery County a battleground but, as the fall campaign progressed, fell back to his Baltimore County base, which he carried in his first two gubernatorial runs. He wound up losing Montgomery by almost 100,000 votes while barely breaking even in Baltimore County, according to unofficial results from the Maryland Board of Elections.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed. I'm a competitor, we're competitors, and we're very, very disappointed," he said.

His wife, trying to buck him up, broke in to say that "people are very proud you stepped up to the plate."

"Well, this is a bottom-line business, though, and either you win or you lose," said the former governor. "Obviously the state's going to go in a particular direction now and it's not in a direction that I want it to go in."

At another point, he returned to that theme. "The people of Maryland want a particular direction. They've voted this way just about every time. Forever. And as we said, it is what it is," said Ehrlich. "We'll see where the state goes in the future. But there's clearly a direction with regard to what people want in this state, there's no doubt about it."

Neither Ehrlich mentioned O'Malley by name and they both made it clear that one of them, at least, is done with politics for good.

Ehrlich said his career, which dates from his election to the Maryland General Assembly and includes four terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, "has been uniformly great" over the last 24 years.

"We are very lucky people," he said. Then he added, in an echo, conscious or otherwise, of the ailing baseball great Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech: "I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

Posted by Paul West at 5:13 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Maryland election 2010


Back to WBAL and its low ratings. I would caution Dems and remind Repubes that in November 2008, just two years ago, pundants and pretty much everyone else in politics completely wrote off the Republican Party. There were calls for a new party (perhaps that was the Tea Bag Party) and the ringing of the death knell for the RP. It was said that while "some" republicans might be able to hang on to their seats in very localized elections, they were done as both a regional (Northeast, Mountain West) and a national party. 11/02/10 showed that reasoning to be completely flawed. The reason that Maryland did not throw but a very very few incumbents out is that they are, for the most part, OK with how government is operating in MD.

Yeah, one party rule is the way to go. Why would you want any ideas that differ from your own, am I right?

I dont really believe that Erlich wanted to step back into the polital arena. I think Kendell, more or less, and thos who were looking for appointed offices, shoved him out there. I am not a republican, and I did not vote for him, bt I knwo the game. I think he is satisfied doing what he was doing. Henson, Kendell and others tried with dirty tactics, and they lost. I think Erlich felt as though he owed some, inside his circle, and he ran for them. Didn't work.

He is not a politician. He did not work well where he was supposed to be doing his job, at the State House. He would always go back to the radio and dictate how things should be, but that is not the democratic way. You must convince others that your ideas have merit and also comprise to make your idea a reality. He could never do it. Maybe it has something with him being an only child. He never understood other people have ideas that are just as valid as his.

Maryland has a larger proportion of federal employees, due to it's proximity to D.C.,This also means lot of unions backing the Democrats for favors. It is hard to break it up with so many people reliant on the government for so much. Ehrlich's appeal covered a larger less populated expanse of the state, whereas, O'Malley's votes came from the Baltimore and more populated areas. Those more dependant upon, and wanting more government , chose O'Malley, those who chose less government intervention in their lives, and wanted fiscal responsibility, chose Ehrlich. Now we still need many jobs, and Obama's thrilling announcement of 152,000 new jobs add in the month of October is less than inspirational. If we continue at that rate working against approx. 17 million unemployed, both on and off the official list, it would take about forty years to provide that many jobs. That doesn't send tingles up my leg, I don't know about yours. I hope Governor O'Malley has some plan a bit more aggressive in store for the people of Maryland, or we are just not going to make it. And if he adds all his 'new Americans' better known as illegal aliens to the employment lines, we are definitely in for some very serious problems.

The public was, I think prepared to ignore attack ads. Gov. Ehrlich never offered specifics as to how he would achieve his agenda. Cut the sales tax - ok - what is going to be cut on the spending side? Return road repair $$$ to the counties - ok - where is it coming from? No more furloughs - ok - what or who gets cut?

In short, he never made his case, just outlined the themes. Based on his history of having had the job before I expected specifics and was open to voting for him.

He never gave me a reason.

Plutocracy the fraud of democracy. Democracy, never had it never will!

carolinmd says, " Ehrlich's appeal covered a larger less populated expanse of the state, whereas, O'Malley's votes came from the Baltimore and more populated areas."
Funny how that one person-one vote things works. Most of the voters in MD live in Baltimore Co, Baltimore City, Montgomery, PG, and Charles counties...All of which O'Malley won, most by large margins.

I am a Republican and find that most of my coworkers are Democrats. It is a mindset.

All I can say is Maryland is a tough state to win and change for anything. Look how long it took for slots (which Governor Ehrlich pushed for) and still they can't get it right.

This state is in a time warp. Despite Governor O'Malley said we are moving forward in reality we are out of sync and touch with the rest of the nation.

Governor Ehrlich gave his best shot, but even when he was the Governor, he was treated harshly by the media just like George Bush was, and now Sarah Palin.

I can't say I blame him for not entering the public arena again.

Best wishes for him and his family.

Sounds like Elijah and Julius got together at the last moment on this little thang -

What a classic WhineBAL interview--I just filed my Personal Property Tax filings for my several small business ventures, and included with my Erhlich $300 "fee" with each. Whew--glad he didn't raise taxes! I didn't need negative ads to make up my mind--nor does the incessant whining encourage me to look elsewhere in the future--I'll remain Independent. Oh and BTW--I received two "no need to vote calls" from your hatchet man. Real class.

Two questions:
1) How can a voter be trusted to make an intelligent choice if they are suceptible to the robocall schtick?
2) To Be True - The Fees (primarily PP Tax filing costs and auto registration costs) are certainly a form of tax but who is most impacted by them? Folks who own multiple companies and the well to do who collect cars. The average person may have to pay another $100 every two years but the real parties who are impacted are those who frankly can afford it. Get it Democrats? I didn't think so. See item one for clarity.

I love how the same people who claim they want smaller government and a reduced deficit also are the ones who claim that 'Obama needs to get us jobs' ... I just want to know, what is the realistic proposal to have smaller government, a lower deficit and have government 'create jobs' all at the same time??

Here's a good one: Republicans want to limit government but not Defense (23% of the budget), not Social Security and other Mandatory spending (56%!!!), can't do Interest on the debt (5%), Can't do TARP (4%) ... Hmm that leaves 12% of the budget for Republicans to 'limit government' with ... Is it just me or is the Republican party just one big joke????


What about the last election when an e-mail or website, can't exactly remember which, was supposedly posted by Ehlich's people speaking badly about O'Malley and his family.

Turns out what, it was someone from O’Malley’s office. Didn't hear much about that. And isn't that same person now working in the Mayor’s office.

Don't talk about the Robo-Calls, because the Dems do the same thing.

But this country/state has a short memory...

@Kevin17: You're exactly right. I wanted a better alternative to O'Malley. I wanted to find a reason for supporting Ehrlich. I looked hard for that reason. He never gave me one.

The truth is I do not entirely trust Gov. O'Malley. He's competent but his motives are often suspect.

I looked to Ehrlich, hoping to find fresh ideas and an honest passion for implementing a better approach.

Instead I heard lip-service to broad, vague, "hot button" issues. In other words, politicking.

Most of what the Ehrlich campaign focused on was blaming O'Malley for causing problems that were inherited, not caused (ie, the economy). Very little effort was made to explain to me how Ehrlich had better ideas for fixing the problems or improving the State. What masqueraded as better ideas were nothing more than a shell game to shift the State's burden's around.

While many of Ehrlich's supporters -- and they surely outnumber O'Malley's supporters where I live -- ate up his message, it was not a very effective approach to reaching out to voters like me who wanted to move to the middle. Ehrlich failed to offer moderate ideas -- or even extreme ideas -- that interested me.

In fact, when he did talk about people like me he did so derisively, lumping me into a stinking pile that he referred to as "the liberals" as if I belonged in a leper colony. While I would like to think of myself as a moderate who is open to new ideas, surely Mr. Ehrlich and his followers would be quick to dismiss me as a liberal.

Hardly the right approach for recruiting me to support ideas. It's hard to hear the Ehrlich camp bemoan how hard it is for a republican to get elected in a 60% democratic state when said republican did so little to reach out to people like me.

Ryan, sounds as if you are having a hard time remembering the facts. If that is true, the you shouldn't post such damning "stories." And Rona, let's go the Time Warp again!

The election day robo calls were not any worse than any other lying robo call. Either prosecute the black panthers with baseball bats on election day or shut up about it.

Yes, Ryan it is true. Spokesman for the current mayor is Ryan O'Doherty. He was at the heart of the O'Malley family controversy. But dems in the city forget all about that.

I find the geographic labels fairly amusing, have none of you heard of people moving around? I was a self-employed professional in Carroll County (verrrrry red) when I voted for Bobby in 2002, rather than Kathleen. He turned around and spit in the eye of every Dem who voted for him, then squandered the boom during which he governed, giving it all to his rich friends instead of banking it for the inevitable bust. In 2006, I voted for MOM, while still a self-employed professional in Republican Carroll County. Now I have a new job with the federal government, live in Baltimore City, and voted for MOM again. Nothing to do with where I live, my employment, negative ads, or my party registration. Bobby blew it when he had my vote, and I would have been a fool to give him a second chance.

Why is this type of "voter suppression" (robocalls), any worse than that promoted by the major newspapers that publish early poll results?
To me, this is also a form of voter suppression.

Hey Annonymous ( November 7, 2010 10:58 AM)

You mean you want BOTH of those guys arrested? Because as far as anyone can report accurately - there were only two.

You did know that, right?

I am no Ehrlich supporter, but I feel this was a faurly classy way in which to frame his loss.

You feel a paper providing information about polls is no better, than a call that lies, says its over and that there is no need to do anything?

It seems to me you that in one case we have the submission of rue information, and in the other we have a lie.

How is giving polling data voting suppression?

One of the themes of this election was dissatisfaction with the status quo, not necessarily love for Republicans. It's possible Ehrlich couldn't ride that wave because he already had been in power.

While I was in college and Ehrlich first came into office, Maryland was in a budget crisis. Ehrlich wanted to cut from everywhere instead of raising taxes, so he slashed the University System of Maryland's budget. But, big surprise, the universities still planned on running and providing classes, so while they had major internal cutbacks (many that have still not been rescinded), the rest of the budget loss was passed on to students.

Thus Ehrlich passed an indirect, regressive tax directly onto college students, a group that is notorious for already being in debt. The amount I ended up paying for my in-state tuition at University of Maryland, College Park, not including room and board, was $64,000 instead of the $28,000 I expected to pay. Seriously, that's a $36,000 tax on me, an increase of over 125%. My out-of-state friends bore it even worse: an increase from $53,000 to $130,000. That's a $77,000 tax over four years ($19,250/year) and an increase of 145%.

Those numbers don't even include room and board, just tuition. You can research for yourself how semester tuition more than doubled between 2002 and 2003, right after Ehrlich made his cuts. And how did he expect these students, who graduated in 2006 and later, to buy houses? With so many of these prospective buyers now out of the market, I would hazard a guess that this was a very bad thing for the entire state economy.

So while Ehrlich calls himself fiscally responsible, he really just totally lacks foresight.

The election day robo calls were not any worse than any other lying robo call. Either prosecute the black panthers with baseball bats on election day or shut up about it.

Actually, they were worse. If they were designed to drive down voter participation, that is a crime.

There is also a difference between voter intimidation (which I think you were referring to with your Black Panther reference) and vote suppression. Unlike with the robocalls, there were no voters who came forward to say they were intimidated from voting. THAT'S why the Bush appointed prosecutor said he couldn't prosecute the Black Panther case.

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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