- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

Polls indicating that Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has lost support among women and blacks show Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has gotten a second look by reaching out to blacks and arguing that the Democratic Party and Mrs. Townsend have taken minorities for granted.
The front-running Democrat's lead over Mr. Ehrlich, the Republican, was gauged at 1 percentage point in a poll of 669 registered voters conducted by Survey USA for WJLA-TV, Channel 7 in Washington. The latest Survey USA poll had a 3.9 percentage point margin of error, Assistant News Director Bill McFarland said.
The poll, conducted last week, asked 293 women and 309 men whether they would choose Mr. Ehrlich or Mrs. Townsend if they were voting that day for governor.
In June, Mrs. Townsend angered many black Democrats by passing over qualified minority candidates and picking retired Navy Adm. Charles Larson, a white former Republican, to be her running mate.
On July 1, Mr. Ehrlich announced that Maryland Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, the only black state chairman for the GOP in the nation, was his choice for lieutenant governor.
Since then Mrs. Townsend's support among women has dropped from 62 percent to 53 percent, while Mr. Ehrlich's draw with women went up from 33 percent to 42 percent, according to Survey USA polls from June and last week.
The same Survey USA polls showed Mrs. Townsend's support among black voters dipped from 78 percent to 70 percent, while Mr. Ehrlich's support among black voters climbed from 19 percent to 23 percent.
"We like the trend lines," Mr. Ehrlich said as he mingled amiably in a diverse but largely white crowd at a National Night Out against crime event in Beltsville Tuesday.
A mid-July poll by Potomac Survey Research for the Baltimore Sun showed support among black voters for Mrs. Townsend at 77 percent a drop of 13 percentage points since January.
Mrs. Townsend said polls "go up and down" and her staff said they mean little almost three months before the election.
"The numbers that people really care about are that I have a plan for prescription-drug coverage and people here are excited that they are getting a new bike trail," said Mrs. Townsend after leading a mostly black crowd of children and voting-age adults on a National Night Out walk against crime through dark, tree-lined streets of District Heights on Tuesday.
But critics said numbers and grumbling indicate Mrs. Townsend will have to go beyond feel-good events like that and her appearance on a Baltimore corner last week to decry street violence and announce a $10,000 state grant to help churches provide safe havens for children on Friday nights.
"I'm concerned about the lack of resources for ex-offenders and drug treatment myself," said Legislative Black Caucus chairman Delegate Obie Patterson, Prince George's County Democrat.
"I do believe there's a shield around her and she's not too accessible," Mr. Patterson said. And he said her campaign needs to be careful about relying on the "buddy-buddy" system to deliver the vote and realize that "grass-roots people are going to turn this election."
Mr. Patterson said the caucus, whose members are all Democrats, may not endorse a gubernatorial candidate, but may simply develop a strategy to help elect Democrats.
Delegate Tony Fulton, a Baltimore Democrat who is black, said Mr. Ehrlich is "hitting the right chords" with the black community.
He said Mr. Ehrlich "has produced" by getting aid to repair ball fields at Coppin State University and bringing the federal secretary of housing and urban development to look at proposals for a faith-based redevelopment project at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore.
And Mr. Ehrlich toured the city's Carver Vocational Technical School, where there's no running water for showers, drinking water has to be delivered and exposed electrical wires are a hazard to students while Mrs. Townsend has not, Mr. Fulton said.
"I started out voting Democrat because they say 'that's what we do,'" said Rene Miller, 45, of Bowie, explaining that the "we" was a reference to blacks.
Miss Miller, who was at the National Night Out attended by Mr. Ehrlich, said "I'm debating," although she said she has not yet voted for a Republican.
"They say there are no black Republicans, but my sister and brother-in-law are," she said.

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