- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2002

ANNAPOLIS (AP) President Kathleen Kennedy Townsend? It's a distinct possibility, according to Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s newest fund-raising letter.

In the letter, which the campaign says has been on the street about a week, Mr. Ehrlich a congressman who represents Baltimore County holds himself up as "literally the one Republican standing in the way" of the Kennedys putting another of their family members in the Oval Office.

"She is running for governor in Maryland this year, the job she assumes will catapult her to the White House," the letter states.

"And if you and I fail to defeat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in this race, her next step will be to run for President against George W. Bush," it states.

Asked if Mr. Ehrlich really believes that Mrs. Townsend, the state's Democratic lieutenant governor, intends to run for president in two years, campaign spokesman Paul Schurick said it is important "that we understand the purpose of the rhetoric in this letter."

"This is strictly for fund-raising purposes," he said. "Our purpose is to stir the emotions of conservative donors."

The letter has been very successful in that respect, Mr. Schurick said.

"The response has been overwhelming. Today alone, we probably got 500 pieces of mail," he said.

Mike Morrill, Mrs. Townsend's campaign spokesman, said the letter is proof that Republicans see Mrs. Townsend "as a formidable candidate with a real background in issues that will appeal to Maryland."

Asked about Mr. Ehrlich's claim that Mrs. Townsend would run for president in two years, Mr. Morrill said, "That's more about his fears than this campaign."

"This campaign is about Maryland, as much as he would like it to be about something else, because he doesn't have a good record for Maryland," Mr. Morrill said.

He said that while Mr. Ehrlich claims to be a centrist, his letter makes it clear he is a conservative.

The letter, given to reporters by Democratic officials, mentions the "many bright lines of contrast between my conservative record and my opponent's liberal schemes."

"He's been trying to have it both ways, appealing to his core group of supporters on his strongly Republican record and then trying to pretend to the rest of the voters that he is a moderate," Mr. Morrill said. "He signed this letter, and now we know where he stands."

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