PHILADELPHIA – The political fortunes of U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., R-Md., are riding on George W. Bush’s November showing.
Ehrlich, R-Timonium, said he will decide whether to run for governor in 2002 based on three factors.
“I’m going to be frank with you about this. I haven’t made up my mind. I’m going to look at three factors which will be filled in November. First of all, does Bush win and how does he do in Maryland? Second, what happens with control of the House? Finally, there are personal issues. My wife and I have a new baby, and there are lifestyle issues,” Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich was the guest of honor at a convention party thrown by the cable company Comcast at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Wednesday.
Ehrlich said he was flattered by media attention on whether he will run for governor, but that he wanted to turn that attention to his fellow Maryland Republicans such as two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey and Michael S. Steele, a state party official and candidate for state party chairman.
“Let’s face it. This is a one-party state, and I view it as my job to get my fellow Republicans in the spotlight,” Ehrlich said.
During his brief remarks before the crowd of about 300, Ehrlich said the lack of Republican influence “has led to the paybacks, retribution, spending, spending, spending, partisan judicial nominations, spending, spending, scandal and spending in Annapolis.”
“We have real talent in this party. However, we are up against preconceptions that we can’t win. The success of this party and convention proves that wrong,” Ehrlich said. “We can do better than that gang we have in Annapolis.”
Democrats control Maryland’s House of Delegates, Senate and governor’s office.
Like this year’s convention unity theme, there was little dissent involving Ehrlich’s status as the unannounced but presumptive Republican candidate for governor.
Although names such as U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, and Maryland GOP Chairman Richard Bennett were mentioned as second choices, everyone I asked said Ehrlich would be their first choice for gubernatorial candidate.
“He’s the star of the Republican Party in Maryland, and he has a broad appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents,” said state Sen. Chris McCabe, R-Montgomery, a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
Ehrlich’s friend, Harford County Executive Jim Harkins, said he would make an excellent governor.
“He is the most competent and qualified candidate that we could get at this point,” Harkins said.
Larry Myers, an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention, said, “He’s certainly among the most qualified Republicans in Maryland to be governor.”
Delegate Joanne S. Parrott, R-Harford, who drove from Maryland with about 60 others for the party, said, “I am very excited that he is considering the governor’s race.”
“If he runs for governor, we will wear out leather for him. He is a man whose word we can take to the bank, and he has the ability to get the crossover vote,” said Anthony Cobb, a convention delegate from Baltimore.
None of those interviewed questioned Ehrlich’s decision to put off making the decision, pointing out that he is in the middle of a congressional race and that there is plenty of time before the 2002 election.
“I think it’s a smart thing to do. The 1998 election was tough for the Republicans in Maryland.
It’s a wise thing to put off making the decision,” said Michelle Duffy, an at-large delegate for the Republican National Convention.
Ehrlich said he had no deadline for deciding, but he could make up his mind in spring or summer of next year.
During his speech, Ehrlich singled out Comcast, the party’s sponsor, as a “great corporate name that gives back to the community.”
Comcast, which is also the major sponsor of the Republican National Convention, is headquartered in Philadelphia and does a lot of business in Ehrlich’s district. It was in the news recently for acquiring the naming rights for the new University of Maryland College Park arena in exchange for providing cable service to campus dorms. “Comcast has been the sponsor of a number of host events, and we hosted this party because [Ehrlich] is a member of Congress within a prime market,” said Comcast spokesman Keith Haller.