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Candidate critical of governor

March 27, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on Tuesday criticized Gov. Parris Glendening's handling of the site selection for the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center.

Ehrlich, 44, of Baltimore County, said he supports the $13.3 million campus project and would fight to ensure that funding continues for the planned education center at the Baldwin House complex downtown.

Some local officials and a steering committee had called for the education center to be built at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park off Interstate 70 or off Robinwood Drive near Hagerstown Community College.

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Glendening sided with those who wanted the Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown to be renovated for the education center.

Ehrlich, during an interview in Hagerstown a day after announcing his candidacy, said that had he been governor, he would not have "pre-empted" the position of local officials.

Glendening's spokeswoman defended the education center decision.

"One of the most important tools of Smart Growth is using the state budget to make sure we are really making the right investment of state money. By building downtown, we're ensuring economic development downtown," Michelle Byrnie said.

Ehrlich did not say where he thought the education center should be built. He said he was not suggesting the site be changed at this point.

Ehrlich said he expects a difficult race but thinks he will succeed based on voters' frustration with the current Democratic administration of Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is expected to run for governor.

Calling the gubernatorial race "a referendum of the Glendening-Townsend administration," Ehrlich said "The time is right for change. Maryland will respond to an agent of change. I am that agent of change."

Ehrlich said he thinks he will get a lot of support from Western Maryland, where conservatives share his political views.

"We view Western Maryland as part of our political base," he said.

Ehrlich said he supports putting state-run slot machines at Maryland race tracks and using the funds for public schools for grades kindergarten through 12th.

"This is the only serious way to increase education spending," he said.

He said he would expect legalizing slots to have at most a minimal impact on tip jar sales in Washington County. That possibility should not get in the way of a good idea, he said.

Much of the proceeds from Washington County tip jars go to local charities and fire and rescue companies.

In addition to Townsend, who has not formally announced her candidacy, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley may also seek the Democratic nomination for governor in the Sept. 10 primary.

The general election is Nov. 5.

The only other announced Republican candidate is Ross Pierpont, 84, of Baltimore County, who has often run for elective office.

Ehrlich said he thinks he would need to raise at least $8 million to win the race, and he called that a realistic goal. He said he has $2 million in campaign funds.

Ehrlich has served in Congress since 1994, representing Baltimore County. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1986 to 1993.

Democrats have held the Maryland governor's office for 34 years.

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