March 14, 2005


The Sarbanes Opening (John Tabin, 3/14/2005, American Spectator)

The man that O'Malley and Duncan want to replace is Bob Ehrlich, Maryland's first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew (elected in 1966). Ehrlich acknowledged on Saturday that "the powers that be" in Washington have called both him and his lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, about seeking the seat that Sarbanes will vacate. A Republican with a libertarian streak on social issues, Ehrlich has signed a medical marijuana bill and has made legalizing slot machines at race tracks a signature issue; the move would bring Maryland's laws in line with neighboring Delaware's and boost revenue without a tax increase. Democrats in the legislature have repeatedly stymied various efforts to pass a slots bill and forced Ehrlich to balance the budget with increased fees and property taxes, though he's held the line on sales and income taxes and as a congressman scored a 90 out of 100 from Americans for Tax Reform in 2001, the last year before his election as governor. Ehrlich is pro-choice, though not sufficiently so for NARAL: they gave him a 45 out of 100 in 2001, the same score he got from the National Right to Life Committee in 1999-2000. As a senator, he'd be a more reliable ally of conservatives than several moderate Republicans currently in office.

Ehrlich seemed to suggest on Saturday that speculation ought to focus more on Steele. Unlike Ehrlich, he's pro-life (a Catholic, he's also anti-death penalty), which could be a liability in Maryland -- but as an articulate black Republican who many consider a rising star, he'd attract lots of attention, and money, from out of state. If Ehrlich were to decide to run for Senate, Steele would be the natural choice to run against O'Malley or Duncan for the governor's mansion; before the announcement from Sarbanes, it was generally assumed that Steele would run in 2010, especially if he and Ehrlich won reelection.

Despite a heavily Democratic electorate and a hostile press (the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun hate him), Ehrlich enjoys a 55% approval rating. The Democrat will always have the edge in Maryland, but either Ehrlich or Steele would be a serious competitor. (So might Ehrlich's wife, Kendall Ehrlich, who's also been mentioned by speculators, though it's not clear how seriously.)

Just imagine how much help Mr. Steele will have from the White House, whichever spot he ends up running for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2005 11:32 PM
Comments for this post are closed.