- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

She had everything going for her, including her name and a record-breaking war chest in a predominantly Democratic state, but Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend fell short of winning Maryland's gubernatorial race because of the cloud cast over her candidacy by the Glendening regime, observers say.
"Glendening is the architect of her defeat," said Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, the former governor who won a second term Tuesday as the state's tax collector. "Every time she mentioned him, she would go down in the polls."
Mr. Schaefer, a strong critic of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said Mrs. Townsend had to shoulder the brunt of the $1.7 billion budget shortfall created by the Glendening administration when she was not responsible for it.
"She had no input on it; I know that for a fact," Mr. Schaefer said.
Others blamed her defeat on the "shabby campaign" she ran and some wrong choices she made along the way, including her running mate, Charles Larson, a white Republican who switched to the Democratic Party just weeks before the announcement in late June. The move angered many powerful black politicians, who canceled campaign appearances with her.
"She started out with a flood strategy. She tried to reach out to independents and Republicans by picking out a former Republican to be her running mate when she could have picked up a Democrat, maybe an African-American," said Paul Herrnson, a policy analyst at the University of Maryland at College Park. "She also didn't have a solid message. She never introduced herself properly to the people. She never said why she was running. She could have hit harder with the issues. And her message became all negative in the end," he said.
On the other hand, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., he said, ran a "very classy campaign." Mr. Ehrlich won Tuesday's election with 52 percent of the vote.
"It was very much like the Bush campaign in 2000. He invoked moderate tones but managed to hold on to conservative principles," Mr. Herrnson said.
Keith Haller, president of the Bethesda-based political survey group Potomac Inc., said Mrs. Townsend was controlled for too long by her advisers.
"Her coming out and convincing people she had the wherewithal was done at the last minute, while Ehrlich stayed on the message and caught a tide of resentment toward the Glendening administration," he said.
When the Maryland gubernatorial race moved center stage this year, Mrs. Townsend was expected to sweep the polls against her Republican opponent in a state that had not elected a governor from that party since 1966. Spiro T. Agnew served only two years before becoming President Nixon's vice president.
Mrs. Townsend also managed to put together an impressive war chest with more than $6.6 million reported in August to Mr. Ehrlich's $4.4 million. A Mason-Dixon poll conducted in March gave her a 13-point lead over Mr. Ehrlich.
But along the way, signs of trouble started to appear, most notably in the September primary. An unknown Democratic candidate, Robert Raymond Fustero, a retired Giant Food clerk whose running mate was a formerly homeless woman, took away 20 percent of the Democratic vote.
Soon Mr. Ehrlich had overtaken Mrs. Townsend in polls, although always within the margin of error. Days before the general election, he established a clear lead over the once-favorite candidate.
Mr. Schaefer told The Washington Times in September that Mrs. Townsend had to work on her weak areas along the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland. It was these areas that handed Mr. Ehrlich the victory; he led Mrs. Townsend in all jurisdictions but Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and Baltimore city.
Mr. Ehrlich also made significant gains in Baltimore County, which he represented in Congress for four terms, and got more votes in Baltimore city and Anne Arundel County than Ellen Sauerbrey, the Republican candidate for governor in 1998.
He did not, however, do so well in the majority-black Prince George's County. Mrs. Sauerbrey won 51,371 votes to Mr. Glendening's 146,746 in 1998, but Mr. Ehrlich managed only 43,439 votes to Mrs. Townsend's 147,026.
Mr. Ehrlich also won the money game, finishing with $2 million more than Mrs. Townsend generated, with help from party heavyweights such as President Bush and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Mrs. Townsend is expected to hold a news conference today to talk about the election and her plans.
"Today is Mr. Ehrlich's day, and she wants to wait another day at least before she makes an appearance," Peter Hamm, a campaign spokesman, said yesterday.
Mr. Schaefer said it was too early to say whether Mrs. Townsend should contest again in 2006. "It all depends on whether she sees that as a priority. She has many other things going for her, a great family. There are plenty of things she can do," he said.
Mrs. Townsend's supporters, however, said they would love to see her return for another fight. "She was a great candidate, and I wish she will come back in 2006," said Charles Nwokoro, a supporter and campaign worker for Mrs. Townsend.
Patrick Badgley contributed to this report.


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