- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. defeated Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to become the first Republican governor of Maryland since Spiro T. Agnew won the post 36 years ago.
In the race, one of the most closely watched in the nation, returns flipflopped all night before ending in a defeat for the lieutenant governor, 52 percent to 48 percent with 99 percent of the vote counted.
"Welcome to history," Mr. Ehrlich, 44, told a roaring crowd of about 1,200 people in the ballroom of the Baltimore Hyatt Regency. "To Republicans, our time in the desert is over. To Democrats, true partnership can bring great progress to the great state of Maryland."
At the nearby Wyndham hotel, Townsend supporters wept but applauded and chanted "K-K-T," as the defeated candidate conceded the race and congratulated Mr. Ehrlich.
In another hard-fought Maryland race, the 8th Congressional District, eight-term Rep. Constance A. Morella, 72, a Republican, lost to Democratic challenger Christopher Van Hollen, 43, a state senator, 52 percent to 48 percent.
In Prince George's County, State's Attorney Jack Johnson, a Democrat, defeated County Council member Audrey E. Scott, a Republican, in the race to replace County Executive Wayne K. Curry, 66 percent to 34 percent with 99 percent of the vote counted.
In Northern Virginia, residents voted down a measure that would have imposed higher taxes to fund road construction and transportation projects. The measure failed 55 percent to 45 percent.
The initiative would have raised $5 billion in bonds over 20 years by raising sales taxes from 4.5 cents to 5 cents on the dollar in nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions.
And in the District, Mayor Anthony A. Williams beat four-time candidate D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, 61 percent to 35 percent. Mr. Williams, the front-runner, won a write-in campaign in September's Democratic primary after being tossed from the ballot because of fraudulent signatures on election forms.
"It was refreshing to have my name on the ballot," Mr. Williams said after voting with his wife moments after the polls opened yesterday morning.
Unusually high voter turnout for midterm elections helped defeat the tax referendum in Virginia and elect Mr. Van Hollen in Montgomery County. But it wasn't enough to save Mrs. Townsend.
"We fell short. He was a formidable opponent and ran an effective campaign, but we have to move on," Mrs. Townsend, 51, told supporters in her concession speech in Baltimore. "I ask that each of us join with him in doing what's right for Maryland. With all the charges and the counter-charges fading away, we will understand that the things that unite us are far more important than the things that divide us."
Mrs. Townsend carried the state's most populous counties, but not in percentages large enough to push her over the top. In Montgomery County, Mrs. Towsend got 164,061 votes to Mr. Ehrlich's 102,817; in Prince George's County, Mrs. Townsend won 137,133 to 40,819; and in Baltimore City, Mr. Ehrlich polled 36,766 votes to Mrs. Townsend's 114,689. The governor-elect won his home area of Baltimore County 163,625 to 100,750.
The Maryland governor's race had been one of the most talked about contests in the country, with the niece of John F. Kennedy struggling to connect with voters in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2 to 1. Months before the election, Mrs. Townsend and her running mate, Charles R. Larson, held a double-digit lead in the polls. But Mr. Ehrlich, a congressman from Baltimore County, and his running mate, Michael S. Steele, steadily closed the gap, and recent polls had the race listed as a tossup.
Mr. Ehrlich's running mate, Mr. Steele, became Maryland's first black lieutenant governor.
Democrats could take some solace in Mr. Van Hollen's victory, which could help change the power structure of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
"This was not a vote against Connie Morella," said Mr. Van Hollen, 43. "This was a vote in favor of a change in direction and a change in leadership."
Mr. Van Hollen pulled off his second upset in two months after being in a dead heat in the polls with Mrs. Morella: He narrowly defeated favorite Maryland Del. Mark Shriver in the September primary.
In Maryland's 2nd Congressional District race for Mr. Ehrlich's seat, Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger defeated former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley 54 percent to 46 percent with 99 percent reporting. Mr. Ruppersberger was favored in the district, in which Democrats hold a 3-to-1 advantage over Republicans.
Northern Virginia voters rejected a referendum that would raise taxes in exchange for the promise of new roads and other transportation projects. The measure called for raising the sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5 percent on all items except food, drugs and nonprescription medication.
Voters in the Hampton Roads region rejected a similar transportation referendum that would have raised sales taxes from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent by 62 percent to 38 percent.
Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner, as well as many state and local elected officials, business organizations, transportation groups and school boards pushed for the measure, arguing that the cash-strapped commonwealth cannot afford to fund transportation projects in the state's most populous region.
Referendum opponents included anti-tax advocates, who argued that the General Assembly in Richmond does not return enough money to the region, and environmental activists, who say more roads will only bring more cars.
In the District, Mr. Williams easily beat his Republican challenger, Mrs. Schwartz, in her fourth loss in a District mayoral race.
After a turbulent summer campaign, Mr. Williams found himself kicked off the Sept. 10 Democratic primary ballot by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, forcing him to run as a write-in candidate and resulting in his being fined $250,000 for forged signatures on nominating petitions. The mayor went on to beat out the Rev. Willie F. Wilson by a 3-to-1 margin with 62,714 write-in votes to become the Democratic candidate.
In the only seriously contested race in the District, incumbent D.C. Council members Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, and David Catania, at-large, Republican, easily defeated challengers with 47 percent and 27 percent respectively.
In Virginia voters returned the 11-member congressional delegation to Washington. Six of the members, including Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican, and U.S. Reps. Thomas M. Davis III, Fairfax Republican, faced no serious opposition.
In other races, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat and former governor easily defeated his relatively unknown Republican challenger, Gene Zarwell, 68 percent to 32 percent with 99 percent reporting.
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., a Democrat, the longest-serving attorney general in recent Maryland history, also beat Republican Edwin MacVaugh, a criminal defense lawyer, 65 percent to 35 percent with 99 percent reporting.
Every seat in the Maryland General Assembly was up for grabs this year, even as many districts' incumbents went uncontested. Redistricting earlier this year also added seats and rearranged boundaries that didn't threaten as many longtime incumbents as first thought.
In Montgomery County, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, faced no serious opposition for his third term. Montgomery County has no term limits for county offices.
Mary Shaffrey, Etan Horowitz, Vashali Honawar and Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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