- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

BALTIMORE Mayor Martin O'Malley yesterday announced he will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor, calling his decision one of the most difficult he has had to make.
The mayor's decision came even as supporters urged him to jump in the governor's race and business and community leaders urged him to continue to lead the struggling city whose helm he took less than three years ago.
Mr. O'Malley said opting not to run was "difficult because it is counter to my nature to back down from tough fights especially when so much is at stake" and "because my party is adrift."
"But the reason so many have looked to me to fill the vacuum of leadership in this governor's race is also the very reason that I cannot," the mayor said in a noon speech at the downtown Radisson Hotel.
He said he and his Cabinet have a responsibility to see Baltimore through a turnaround that is under way, with declines in crime and drug-related health emergencies, as well with new jobs and rising home values. He also said his wife is pregnant and they are expecting a boy.
But Mr. O'Malley did not endorse Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination, or even mention her by name.
"I've carried a lot of water for this donkey and I will be supporting the Democratic Party's nominee in the fall," Mr. O'Malley said.
"Whether that nominee supports the people of Baltimore and the Baltimore metropolitan region is up to them," he said.
He said his decision had more to do with the risk of leaving the city before finishing what needs to be done and that he wasn't promised financial or political support for making it.
Mrs. Townsend's campaign staff said she received no advance notice of the mayor's decision, but heard it by listening to his broadcast speech.
But Mrs. Townsend welcomed the news, which helps her avoid a bruising primary that could have disaffected some Democratic voters whom Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. needs to attract to win in Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.
"I'm very happy that the mayor and I are going to work together for Baltimore," Mrs. Townsend said, brushing aside questions about his not endorsing her, with the comment, "I think it was a very tough decision."
Mr. O'Malley's decision also clears the way for a head-to-head battle between Mrs. Townsend and Mr. Ehrlich, the Republican front-runner, to begin early.
Mr. Ehrlich fired a salvo yesterday when he said Mr. O'Malley would have engaged in real debate and that his elimination from the Democratic primary is an example of how that party's "controlling in-group is denying the regular party Democrats real competition" and depriving the public of serious discussion on issues.
He also challenged Mrs. Townsend to debate him six times with television cameras rolling, beginning soon.
Mrs. Townsend says it is too early.
"He has to win the primary. I'm not going to prejudge," she said.
Other candidates have filed to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, but Mrs. Townsend and Mr. Ehrlich are regarded as clear front-runners.
So, too, Mrs. Townsend noted, was former Rep. Helen Bentley in the 1994 Republican primary, only to lose to former state House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
While Mrs. Townsend has raised more than $6 million, aided by her famous family and her own prodigious, long-running efforts, Mr. Ehrlich's fund-raising began late last year and fell shy of early goals. But he said it recently reached between $2.5 and $3 million.
Mr. Ehrlich also said he expects more money will be coming his way from Democrats and business leaders who were waiting on Mr. O'Malley.
But they may be as surprised as Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer the former Baltimore mayor and governor in whose footsteps many expected Mr. O'Malley to follow.
"I really thought he was going to run," said Mr. Schaefer, adding that he believes Mr. O'Malley discovered support for him outside Baltimore was not as great as he thought.
"I am glad he's good for the city, people like him, he's a good speaker, he's pretty and he can play the banjo," said Mr. Schaefer, a Democrat. He declined to endorse anyone, but said he is "awful close to Kathleen."
But Mr. Schaefer said he also admires Mr. Ehrlich.
"I like him. I'll never say anything against him. I'll never tell anyone not to vote for him," Mr. Schaefer said.
Mrs. Townsend led Mr. O'Malley 53 percent to 31 percent in a Gonzales/Arscott Research poll released in January. She led 47 percent to Mr. O'Malley's 40 percent when the last poll was conducted in May.

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