- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

Not since January 1969, when Spiro Agnew resigned the office halfway into his four-year term to become vice president, has a Republican served as governor of Maryland. Democrats currently occupy every elected statewide office and control both houses of the General Assembly.
Eleven days from now, however, Marylanders will have the opportunity to bring a measure of two-party competition to their state by electing Republican Rep. Robert Ehrlich their next governor. The differences in political background and experience between Mr. Ehrlich, a moderate conservative and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a staunch liberal, could hardly be more stark. In 1986 and 1990, Mr. Ehrlich was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. Since 1994, he has been elected four times to represent Maryland's 2nd Congressional District, where Republicans are outnumbered by roughly a 3-2 margin. Mrs. Townsend was defeated on the only occasion she sought political office on her own, a run for Congress in which she lost by 18 percentage points.
It is certainly true that Mrs. Townsend, who was annointed crime czar by Gov. Parris Glendening, has more administrative experience in state government than Mr. Ehrlich does. The problem is that her performance has left a lot to be desired. Both Republicans and Democrats have raised serious questions never satisfactorily answered about Mrs. Townsend's crime-fighting performance. Similarly, plenty of questions have been raised about her claims to have been involved in crafting the state budget (now facing a projected $1.7 billion deficit through the next fiscal year), helping to turn the race largely into a referendum on her fitness to serve as governor.
Unlike Mrs. Townsend's "supporters" at The Washington Post (which endorsed her while declaring that her budget plans are an "insult" to voters), we're proud to endorse Mr. Ehrlich. During his eight years as a member of the Maryland House and his eight years in Congress, Mr. Ehrlich has been a strong supporter of tax cuts and limiting government growth. This stands in sharp contrast to the record of the Glendening-Townsend administration, which has presided over substantial increases in the growth of state government.
These are three major reasons why Mr. Ehrlich would be far preferable to Mrs. Townsend as governor:
Crime. Mrs. Townsend was given responsibility for overseeing reform of the state juvenile-justice system. Unfortunately, her legacy was the disastrous juvenile boot camp system, where the state paid out millions of dollars to juveniles who were victimized by sadistic guards. The crassly political death penalty moratorium instituted by the Glendening-Townsend administration was yet another shameful episode. Mr. Ehrlich, by contrast, has vowed to end the blanket moratorium and evaluate each death sentence on its merits. He has put forward a serious initiative to reform juvenile justice, and also has championed Project Exile, a federal-state program to target hoodlums caught using guns in a crime.
The Budget. Even The Post, in its remarkably tepid endorsement of Mrs. Townsend, noted that she claims to have been "absent or impotent when the mistakes were made" during the Glendening-Townsend administration that have left the state hemorrhaging red ink. At the same time, however, Mrs. Townsend brags about the administration's support for politically popular programs like education (in other words, tossing a bucketload of additional tax monies into the public schools). In sharp contrast to Mrs. Townsend, Mr. Ehrlich advocates vouchers as a way to use competition to force the public schools to do a better job. And, unlike Mrs. Townsend, Mr. Ehrlich resolutely opposes raising taxes and endorsing virtual blank checks for vast new spending programs.
Integrity: Mrs. Townsend has shown abysmal judgment by suggesting that Mr. Ehrlich's legitimate concerns about the usefulness of race-based affirmative action are analogous to support for slavery. After promising not to politicize the sniper attacks, Mrs. Townsend ran ads doing precisely that. And, despite her responsibilities as crime czar, she refuses to accept any responsibility for the failure of the Glendening-Townsend administration to cooperate with FBI background checks of gun owners as required under the Brady Act. (The Post endorsement failed to say a word about this dereliction of Mrs. Townsend's duty.)
In short, Robert Ehrlich is the far superior choice to serve as Maryland's next governor.

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