- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

BALTIMORE Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. visited a black barber shop yesterday in a troubled neighborhood surrounding Pimlico racecourse, continuing the effort to connect with minority voters before the Nov. 5 election.
Capturing at least some of the traditionally Democratic black vote is key to Mr. Ehrlich's strategy. His point man, Democratic state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, has said Mr. Ehrlich needs 20 percent of the black vote to win the election.
A poll this week shows Mr. Ehrlich's share of the black vote has dropped from 14 percent to 11 percent, while black support for Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has increased from 81 percent to 83 percent.
Mrs. Townsend's negative comments about Mr. Ehrlich caused the swing, said Shareese N. DeLeaver, an Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman.
"It's the shock value," she said.
Miss DeLeaver expects Mr. Ehrlich to regain black support as his campaign airs more TV ads in the homestretch of the campaign. She declined to state a goal for a share of the black vote, but said Mr. Ehrlich could do better than 11 percent.
"I think we are going to have to continue pounding our message of change," Miss DeLeaver said.
The race is a dead heat, with Mr. Ehrlich leading by 1 percentage point, according to the poll by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications Inc.
At the Park Heights Barber Shop, in a community where half of the houses are boarded up and residents complain about drug dealers on street corners, Mr. Ehrlich talked to about a dozen people about getting tough on crime, expanding drug-treatment programs and spurring economic development by introducing slot machines to Pimlico.
He said rejuvenating the racetrack would help nearby businesses the same way sports stadiums fueled the economy in downtown Baltimore.
"That's the goal, making Pimlico a Camden Yards," Mr. Ehrlich said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Townsend touted her commitment to K-12 education yesterday as she toured an elementary school and a vocational magnet school in Baltimore County.
She had breakfast with children at Charlesmont Elementary School in the southern Baltimore County neighborhood of Dundalk. Later, she toured Kenwood Technical School in Essex.
Townsend campaign officials declined to answer questions about reports yesterday that her Office of Crime Control and Prevention lost $200,000 by closing the Criminal Justice Institute just two months after it opened.
The money is part of a grant package that is now the subject of a federal probe. Investigators want to know whether the money was used to help Mrs. Townsend's political career.
Len Foxwell, a Townsend spokesman, directed questions about the institute to the Office of Crime Control and Prevention.
Robert W. Weinhold Jr., the office's director of policy and research, said a recent news report about a $200,000 loss was "utterly inaccurate."
He said the office lost about $10,000 on unused office space still under lease.
Mr. Weinhold also said the Community Justice Institute's work creating training programs for public-safety workers would be continued by the Maryland Resource Center, which provides training for a broader range of fields.

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