- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

TIMONIUM, Md. (AP) Kendel Ehrlich found her footing as a political spouse and raced alongside her husband, Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., all the way to the governor's mansion.
"I love the fight," said Mrs. Ehrlich, 41. "I love the excitement. We are both very competitive. But people don't always associate that with me, I guess because I'm softer looking."
Maryland's next first lady, once voted most outgoing student at her suburban Baltimore high school, is known as a tireless promoter of her husband. On election night, Mrs. Ehrlich, a savvy pragmatist, stood beside her victorious husband, her red suit perfectly accessorized with a brooch depicting the U.S. flag.
"From where I stand, she is the ideal political spouse," said Jim Dornan, a Republican political consultant. "It's almost like politics is second nature to her."
Behind the scenes Mrs. Ehrlich has been a key adviser. She urged her husband to run when legions told him he didn't have a chance. "The ultimate decision came down to just Bob and Kendel because nobody lives with the repercussions more than us," Mr. Ehrlich said.
On the campaign trail, Mrs. Ehrlich was witty, often poking fun at her husband.
"We won the white-women vote, and I'm going to give Kendel much of the credit for that marketing effort," communications director Paul E. Schurick said.
"As we were being savagely attacked called a Nazi, a polluter, anti-children, anti-senior citizen we were able to go on the offensive with Kendel as an articulate spokesperson for Bob, saying, 'That's my husband they are talking about, and they've got it all wrong.'"
Preparing to step into her job as first lady, she plays down her position as an adviser, perhaps mindful that even in the 21st century, some voters prefer traditional roles for political wives.
Her first priorities, she said, will be protecting the privacy of their toddler son, Drew, and "getting my family organized."
She wants to find a way to help combat substance abuse, an underlying social problem in many of the criminal cases she has handled as a public defender and prosecutor.
However she shapes her newest role, friends say, this much is certain: She will make it fun.
"She is a great gal," Delegate Michael E. Busch said. "There is nothing pretentious about Kendel. They'll be sitting in the Ram's Head on a Friday night having a beer with the troopers in the next booth."

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