- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are wooing crossover and undecided voters in each other's traditional bases as the Maryland governor's race continues in a statistical dead heat.
Mrs. Townsend's running mate, Adm. Charles Larson, has hit the hustings four times in Western Maryland, while Mr. Ehrlich has campaigned in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
The Townsend campaign has targeted Howard and Anne Arundel counties, as well as eastern Baltimore County, where unions are strong, and western Baltimore County, where the number of black voters has increased.
Adm. Larson said they were getting a "very positive response" in Western Maryland, adding that he had spoken with large groups of people who said Mr. Ehrlich had never been out in the area.
But Republican strategists credited Mr. Ehrlich with having the discipline to keep out of Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, where his base is strong and he would be received enthusiastically. He has relied on his conservative credentials and the support of local Republican activists who understand that the race will be won or lost in the voter-rich Washington suburbs and Baltimore.
Western Maryland and Eastern Shore counties combined account for about 12.4 percent of the state's voters. The Washington suburbs and Baltimore make up more than 40 percent of the electorate.
Members of Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's campaign team have said she spent too much time tending her base in rural areas. She lost to Gov. Parris N. Glendening by a razor-thin margin in 1994 and by about 10 percent in 1998.
A Republican strategist who asked not to be named said Allegany County is the only Western Maryland jurisdiction in which Democrats have a chance and that only about 1.4 percent of the state's voters live there.
Polls show that Mr. Ehrlich has been the more successful in attracting crossover votes. In the latest poll, he had a 1 percentage point lead over his opponent. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Maryland.
Mr. Ehrlich will continue to concentrate on Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and Baltimore, campaign spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said.
Mr. Ehrlich has garnered support of traditionally Democratic Jewish voters. And the campaign's polls showed him capturing as much as 20 percent of black voters, an unprecedented level.
Although the Republican candidate has lagged behind Mrs. Townsend in women's votes, he says he's done better with them than any Republican before him.
Ehrlich campaign spokesman Henry Fawell said the campaign's heavy presence in the Democratic strongholds was helping it.
"We are not going to be claiming a coup in any of those areas," he said. "But we certainly expect we can make some significant improvements from what we have seen from previous Republican candidates in those areas."
Mrs. Townsend has had her share of Republican supporters, among them families opposed to slot machines and pro-choice women. Some crossovers say they have chosen the Townsend-Larson team for its stand on social issues such as the environment, abortion and gun control. Her supporters say she has been gaining on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland, which have been her weak points.
David Paulson, a spokesman for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign, said the Eastern Shore is still "up in the air," adding that Mr. Ehrlich's plan to legalize slot-machine gambling at horse-racing tracks is a powerful negative for some Eastern Shore voters.
"They feel not only is there an issue with slots, there's an issue with the new Hyatt [hotel] development out there. A lot of people there feel that thing was built for the future of casinos on the Eastern Shore," he said.
The candidates have worked on attracting crossovers from the start. Mr. Ehrlich tried to woo state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, a longtime Democrat, before he chose Michael S. Steele, a black lawyer from Baltimore. Mrs. Townsend chose as her running mate a lifelong Republican, Adm. Larson, who switched to the Democratic Party weeks before the announcement.

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