- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2001

ANNAPOLIS — Republicans who want to challenge Maryland's apparent front-runner for governor, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, know the time has come to show their hands in this high-stakes political game — yet the players are still waiting to lay their cards on the table.
Potomac businessman John Kane and fellow Republican Audrey Scott, a Prince George's County Council member, have made the most definitive declarations about whether they are running for governor.
Both said they're ready to run if the Republican Party needs them, but they'll bow out if Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Timonium — who many believe has the best chance of succeeding — decides to give up his congressional seat to make a bid.
Mr. Ehrlich is calculating his odds against all-but-declared Democratic candidate Mrs. Townsend, as are several in her own party.
A Mason-Dixon Poll released Wednesday shows Mrs. Townsend running well ahead of potential Democratic and Republican opponents.
State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a former governor, made the best showing in a series of head-to-head matchups in a Democratic primary, although he hasn't decided his political plans for next year. Mrs. Townsend led Mr. Schaefer 44 percent to 34 percent with 22 percent undecided. Looking ahead to the 2002 general election, Mrs. Townsend was favored by 48 percent to 34 percent over Mr. Ehrlich.
Watching her move through the crowds at an annual political fete last week, her popularity is obvious.
At the Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield, Md., Mrs. Townsend was swarmed by folks wearing buttons with her photo and stickers stating simply "We love Kathleen." She shines in such venues.
Plenty of Democrats could argue they have more experience than Mrs. Townsend as chiefs and policy-makers, such as Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Wayne K. Curry and Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger. Yet so far none seems convinced he has the edge needed to beat Mrs. Townsend.
Republicans aren't convinced she's unbeatable, but the challenger is going to have to raise a lot of money quickly.
Mr. Kane and Mrs. Scott are putting together committees to prepare a campaign and boost their name recognition.
Mr. Kane is chairman of the Greater Washington Board of Trade's transportation committee and has been heard for months on drive-time radio talking about the need to solve the region's traffic problems. He has already unfurled a campaign banner and passed out stickers for his nascent gubernatorial campaign. Mrs. Scott, so highly respected on the otherwise all-Democratic Prince George's County Council that her colleagues made her vice chairman, says there may be a few Democrats on the exploratory committee she is expected to announce this week.
Mr. Ehrlich's decision could come within two weeks or later this summer, his top political aide said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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