- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

TOWSON, Md. (AP) Two of Maryland's top Republicans urged their fellow party members to stop the infighting they said had helped Democrats continue their domination of state politics.
Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and former gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey said too many party activists do not realize real political power comes only from winning elections.
The two spoke Saturday at the party's state convention.
Mrs. Sauerbrey, the Republican candidate for governor in 1994 and 1998, said the party does not appear to recognize how dire its situation is.
"We are in a life-and-death struggle for survival," said Mrs. Sauerbrey. Democrats, she said, "want to wipe us out. Democrats understand power."
Mr. Ehrlich, who has been courted to run for governor next year in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, said the party lacks "the discipline, the cohesion [and] the understanding of what it takes to win."
He said, "To the extent that there is intramural fighting among you, stop it, now, please. I am really tired of it."
The party's reaction to Mr. Ehrlich's plea could influence his decision on running for governor. His call for unity is part of a growing effort by leaders to rejuvenate the Republican Party amid increasing irrelevance in Annapolis.
Almost all statewide seats, and many key county positions, will be on the ballot in 2002.
Mrs. Sauerbrey lost three years ago to Gov. Parris N. Glendening by more than 10 percentage points, and the party lost six seats in the legislature. It was the first election since the 1970s in which Republicans lost members in the General Assembly.
In the race, two successful conservative candidates, Sens. Andrew Harris of Baltimore County and Alexander Mooney of Frederick, alienated many centrist Republicans with their stances on social issues.
At the convention, Mr. Ehrlich waved a letter he said was from a Republican Central Committee member he would not name. The letter, Mr. Ehrlich said, indicated the person would not support an Ehrlich run for governor because they differed on too many social issues, despite agreeing on many others.
Mr. Ehrlich favors abortion rights, contrary to the beliefs of many in the Maryland Republican Party. But he urged Republicans to focus on similarities on fiscal issues rather than differences on social ones.
State Chairman Michael Steele said the opinions of centrists must be heard to wrest power from the Democrats.
"We have moderate voices in our party that work with us. That's a good thing," he said. "Why do we treat it as a bad thing?"

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