- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Since 1994, Rep. Robert Ehrlich, a conservative Republican, has represented Maryland's 2nd Congressional District, where Democrats outnumber Republicans approximately 2-1. After Republican Ellen Sauerbrey lost her second consecutive run for the governorship against Democrat Parris Glendening in 1998, Mr. Ehrlich began publicly mulling the possibility of running this year. He now has added incentive to do so. Mr. Glendening's handpicked redistricting commission has moved Mr. Ehrlich's home into the neighboring 1st Congressional District, represented by fellow Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest. If Mr. Ehrlich runs for governor, he faces an uphill battle, given that no Republican has been elected to statewide office in Maryland since 1970 except for Sen. Charles McC. Mathias, a staunch liberal who retired 15 years ago.
Mr. Ehrlich clearly understands the necessity of limiting government growth and lowering taxes. He has been sharply critical of Mr. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for seeking to halt the tax reduction scheduled to take effect this year. On crime, he has lobbied tirelessly to push federal prosecutors in Maryland to implement their own version of "Project Exile" an enormously successful program implemented in Richmond. The Richmond program, requiring that criminals carrying a gun receive mandatory jail time, has sent homicide rates there plummeting. Mr. Ehrlich has also criticized Maryland's elected Attorney-General-for-Life Joseph Curran's idiotic proposal to bar private citizens from owning handguns.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ehrlich has on occasion behaved in ways that can exasperate even his hardiest supporters. In the mid-1990s, for example, Mr. Ehrlich was besieged with constituent complaints about a questionable desegregation scheme pushed by Bill Clinton's Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, Henry Cisneros. In metropolitan Baltimore, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the city housing authority and HUD, accusing them of maintaining "segregated" public housing systems. The "remedy" was a sweetheart settlement in which HUD agreed to pour money into Baltimore's mismanaged public housing authority for the purpose of moving black tenants into new homes in working-class areas. The problem was that some of these new homeowners were criminals who preyed upon their new neighbors. Mr. Ehrlich initially took a strong, forceful stand against this. But after a strident propaganda campaign against his position from the editorial page of the Baltimore Sun, Mr. Ehrlich grew silent.
Before he makes a final decision on running for governor, Mr. Ehrlich also needs to clarify his position on drugs. The very liberal Sun columnist Michael Olesker wrote approvingly that, in a recent appearance on a Baltimore radio show, Mr. Ehrlich boasted that he was "not critical" of former Mayor Kurt Schmoke's longtime crusade to reduce criminal penalties for drug abuse. Mr. Ehrlich appeared to suggest that he could "drive the debate" and be "like Nixon going to China" on the issue by persuading Marylanders to embrace a "different" approach on drugs, although he insists that he does not embrace Schmoke-like decriminalization schemes. Mr. Ehrlich, a good and decent man, is deluding himself if he thinks that any movement in the direction of Mr. Schmoke's surrender message on drugs is going to get him elected governor. It's more likely to drive away moderate and conservative Democrats the very people whose support Mr. Ehrlich desperately needs if he is to have any serious chance of defeating Mrs. Townsend.

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