Ehrlich pledges support for farmers

July 12, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

SMITHSBURG --Pledging a commitment to farmers, Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. brought his gubernatorial campaign to northeast Washington County on Monday.

Addressing a small group at Misty Meadow Farms near Smithsburg, Ehrlich said he wanted to combat the idea that farmers are responsible for Chesapeake Bay pollution.

"The first promise we made to farmers in this state was: No more demonization. No more marginalization. No more blaming you for things that are not your fault," he said. "And let's remind the world that farmers are the original environmentalists."

It was the first Washington County stop for Mary D. Kane, a former state secretary of state, since Ehrlich announced her as his lieutenant governor candidate two weeks ago.


Ehrlich, who served one term as governor before losing to Democrat Martin O'Malley in the 2006 election, is trying to win back the position.

Both candidates have competition within their parties. The other Democrats are J.P. Cusick and Ralph Jaffe. Brian Murphy is the other Republican in the race.

Asked during an interview to expand on his comments, Ehrlich said that when he ran for governor in 2002, he ran into a perception in Annapolis that farmers cause pollution in the bay. Much of that was urban and suburban prejudice, he said.

He said farmers want to do their part in protecting the environment, but don't get guidance.

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for O'Malley's campaign, said O'Malley sometimes has to fight an anti-farmer perception, too.

Ehrlich also said his administration was committed to cover crops, which protect the soil.

He called the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act, which he signed into law in 2004, "the most important environmental initiative in a generation, or maybe many generations, in this state," keeping thousands of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus out of the bay.

Through the act, Maryland charges households that use a municipal sewage treatment plant $2.50 a month. The money is used to upgrade those plants.

Ehrlich said Monday that he wanted the fee to be 25 cents a month, but suburban legislators won out, so he was happy with a bill that was 85 percent of what he wanted.

"You have to take credit for the entire package," Abbruzzese countered.

Abbruzzese said the act is "one piece of the puzzle" in restoring and protecting the bay, along with stormwater management and fisheries management.

O'Malley has expanded the use of cover crops and tried to accelerate improvements to sewage treatment plants, he said.

Ehrlich discusses gambling, Senate primary

While in Washington County on Monday for a campaign visit, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. answered The Herald-Mail's questions about gambling and a state Senate primary.

During his four years as governor, Ehrlich tried but failed to have a slots bill pass in the General Assembly.

In a 2008 referendum, with Martin O'Malley as governor, Maryland voters approved slots, but none of the five venues is operational yet.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware have moved ahead with table games.

Asked Monday if he thinks Maryland needs table games to keep pace, Ehrlich wouldn't commit, saying only that the issue "needs to be a very transparent debate in the General Assembly."

He said he's not philosophically opposed to expanding gambling, but can see a possible effect on restaurants, bars and other small businesses.

Asked about the Republican state Senate primary between incumbent Donald F. Munson and challenger Christopher B. Shank, Ehrlich declined to side with either candidate.

He said he respects Munson and Shank, and he sees them as having different styles.

"I've worked with both, obviously, over many years," he said. "I served in the legislature with Don and have great respect for him. Chris is one of the hot young stars in the Republican party. He is very dynamic. He has been a whip in the Maryland House of Delegates for the past few years and he has comported himself very well.

"So, it's a very difficult thing for anyone who's watching this from the outside, particularly knowing both as I do. We'll let the people of Washington County decide this race, but clearly Don has his view concerning what the job should look like and it's more of an accommodation view, if you will, with (Senate President) Mike Miller and the Democrats.

"Chris has a more aggressive view concerning standing firm on some principles and establishing that comparison and contrast between what he views where the Republicans should be, as opposed to Mike Miller and the Democrats."

Ehrlich said he isn't endorsing a candidate, but added, "Obviously, I have made certain statements and I'll make future statements, as well."

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