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Former governor Ehrlich brings campaign to Hagerstown

April 08, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Former Md. Gov. Robert Ehrlich signs a campaign sign for Bob Sweeney of Boonsboro. The autograph was for delegate candidate Neil Parrott, and read "To Neil: Just Win. Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Jr."
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

HAGERSTOWN -- Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. encouraged and embraced supporters in Hagerstown on Thursday while kick-starting his campaign to win back Maryland's governorship.

At a rally in Public Square, Ehrlich reminded the crowd that Washington County, like the rest of Western Maryland, is friendly territory for him.

He sounded off on what he thinks is wrong with Democratic control in Annapolis.

He pledged to try to roll back the sales-tax increase enacted under Gov. Martin O'Malley (it rose from 5 percent to 6 percent) and to make Maryland better for small businesses.

Ehrlich was governor from 2003 to 2007, the first Republican to hold the position in more than three decades. O'Malley, a Democrat, defeated Ehrlich in the November 2006 election and is running for a second term.

The general election is Nov. 2.

Ehrlich also was scheduled to stop in Frederick and Bel Air on Thursday.

A day earlier, he publicly confirmed his candidacy, ending many months of speculation about whether he'd run again and for what office.

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"Maryland believes Annapolis is broken," Ehrlich told the crowd of about 50 people, "and I believe, we believe, I'm in a unique position to fix it yet again."

Asked after his speech how he'd close the state's budget deficit, Ehrlich said, "Those ideas will be developed during the course of the campaign."

A sensible slot-machine program will be part of the plan, he said.

He added that he thinks the current administration has overrelied on federal stimulus money for recurring program costs.

If O'Malley is re-elected, Maryland will see a "monumental" tax increase, Ehrlich promised the crowd.

Tom Russell, O'Malley's campaign manager, didn't return a message seeking comment Thursday.

While Democrats outnumber Republican by a 2 to 1 ratio in Maryland, Western Maryland leans GOP.

In his introductory remarks, Mark Boyer, a former Washington County Republican Central Committee chairman, noted that Ehrlich previously received 69 percent of the vote in Washington County.

That was in 2002, when Ehrlich defeated Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

When O'Malley beat Ehrlich in 2006, Ehrlich had 61 percent of the vote in the county.

Ehrlich assured GOP followers he's running to better the state, not settle a score.

"The last grudge match I had was in middle school. I won," he said. "But this is not a grudge match, you guys. This is an election about the future of the state of Maryland."

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