- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Let the race begin. The governor's race, that is.
After months of speculation and rumors about candidates getting into and out of the race, the campaign to replace Democrat Parris Glendening as Maryland's governor gets under way today.
There may be no formal beginning to an election campaign for governor, but this is about as close as it gets.
Rep. Robert Ehrlich, Maryland Republican, plans a news conference this morning at his boyhood home in a working-class Baltimore County neighborhood to announce he will seek the Republican nomination for governor. The announcement will precede a trip to Montgomery County and an evening fund-raiser at a downtown Baltimore hotel with tickets costing $1,000 and $2,000.
Mr. Ehrlich will spend the next two days on campaign trips that will carry him from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.
While Mr. Ehrlich is busy kicking off his formal campaign, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will carry her still-unannounced candidacy to Montgomery County, where she will be endorsed by Democratic legislators, county officials and firefighters.
Mrs. Townsend has not committed to running for governor, and aides say she will not disclose her political plans until after the General Assembly session ends April 8. But she is clearly a candidate, and her visit to Montgomery County has all the trappings of a campaign event.
Mrs. Townsend is a heavy favorite to win the party nomination, and the only Democrat who seems able to mount a serious challenge is Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. He has not ruled out a race and scheduled his political event for today a $35-a-head affair at Hammerjacks in Baltimore that was described as more of a party than a fund-raiser.
The serious money-raising is scheduled April 17 at Ravens Stadium, said O'Malley fund-raiser Colleen Martin-Lauer.
Mr. Ehrlich began talking last summer about entering the race. He repeatedly postponed an announcement while deciding whether it would be best for him and for the Republican Party to stay in Congress or try to become the first Maryland Republican to win a statewide race since Spiro T. Agnew was elected governor in 1966.
In an interview last week, Mr. Ehrlich said one of his concerns last year about entering the race "was the lack of a compelling issue or issues" on which to base a campaign.
Then came the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"The political terrain changed," Mr. Ehrlich said. "In this new world, we have a host of issues to bring to the table."
Two things seem certain about a Townsend-Ehrlich campaign: It will be expensive, and it will not be a polite walk in the park.
Mrs. Townsend already has raised more than $5 million, and Mr. Ehrlich is talking about needing $8 million to wage an effective campaign against a lieutenant governor with almost universal name recognition in Maryland.


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