By John O’Connor
ANNAPOLIS – Howard County Delegate Elizabeth Bobo is campaigning hard this year – but not for herself.
Bobo, a two-term incumbent Democrat, ran unopposed in the Sept. 10 primary and has no Republican challenger for the Nov. 5 general election. With her own office safe, Bobo has been pushing hard for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign against Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
“I’m going to as many community events as possible,” said Bobo. “I’m working just about full time in the community.
“My goal in my district is to get the vote out. Get his (Ehrlich’s) record out and then get the vote out.”
Howard County Republicans acknowledge beating Bobo would be difficult.
“Nobody filed against Liz because it would take an incredible amount of money (to defeat her),” said Louis Pope, Howard County Republican Party chairman. “Rather than just put a name on the ballot we just elected to spend our resources elsewhere.”
That gives Bobo a lot of free time. She’s spent it visiting senior centers, community meetings and education groups – the base of her own support – in her push for Townsend. She has found an audience in senior women, who were unaware of Ehrlich’s position opposing many gun-control measures.
Bobo, like a good real estate agent, is also using the advantage of location.
Columbia, Bobo’s home district, sits near the state’s geographic center and splits the distance between Baltimore and Washington. That makes it an ideal place for many statewide groups’ meetings.
One such event, a Sept. 12 conference of the Maryland Children’s Action Network, turned into a Townsend windfall when Ehrlich said he and the Children’s Defense Fund, a children’s advocacy group, “don’t agree on anything . . . Their agenda is not mine and never has been.”
Bobo called The Washington Post to put them on to the story, since Ehrlich’s comments highlighted a major difference in policy between the two candidates.
The work of Townsend’s “good friend” is paying off, said Townsend spokesman Len Foxwell.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of good positive movement, not only in Howard County.”
The delegate, a self-styled opponent of big business, was surprised she had no challengers this year. Todd A. Arterburn challenged Bobo in 1998, but earned only 36 percent of the vote.
Voter backlash against candidates close to business might have dissuaded a challenge, Bobo said.
“Many of the people in office and running for office are distancing themselves from big business,” she said, alluding to the financial troubles of companies such as WorldCom, Tyco and Enron. “Some people say that they’ve (Republicans) given up, but I don’t agree with that.”
Business leaders cite a different reason.
“We have supported candidates in the past,” said Robert O. Worcester, president of Maryland Business for Responsive Government. “Unfortunately, environmental groups and labor groups are more forceful in their politics than business.”
MBRG issues annual report cards rating General Assembly members on their business friendliness. Bobo ranked in the fifth percentile from 1999-2002, one of the lowest-ranked legislators.