- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

Republican gubernatorial nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. continued to court crossover votes yesterday, attending services at a Baptist church in downtown Baltimore and then taking his campaign to a bagel shop in the traditionally Democratic, Jewish neighborhood of Pikesville.
Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend campaigned at neighborhood festivals in Gaithersburg, Essex and Takoma Park, where she said she wasn't afraid of losing voters from Maryland's Democratic base.
Mr. Ehrlich's scheduled appearance in Pikesville drew more than 150 people, evidence, according to his supporters and some Jewish leaders, that the Republican nominee is drawing nontraditional support.
Speaking to the crowd gathered in front of Joan & Gary's Original Bagel Co. in Pikesville, Mr. Ehrlich said that Mrs. Townsend had taken the Jewish vote for granted. He said she was mired in the outdated mind-set that Maryland's Jewish Democrats are a voting bloc unwilling to cross party lines.
"He is winning over traditional Jewish Democrats. That's a phrase I thought I'd never hear in this community in my lifetime," said Mark Luterman, who helped organize the event.
Some people in the crowd said they were backing Mr. Ehrlich because of his record as a fiscal conservative or because of his centrist stance on abortion rights, but most cited his pro-Israel votes as a Baltimore County congressman and his years of experience in elected office.
Mrs. Townsend said her support remained strong among Jewish voters.
"The Jewish community knows we share a great devotion to Israel and we share common values," Mrs. Townsend said during a campaign stop at the Takoma Park Folk Festival. "My commitment isn't just rhetoric."
The amount of support Mr. Ehrlich has garnered among Baltimore Jews is unprecedented, said Rabbi Steven Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom in Baltimore. He said prominent members of his congregation had held fund-raising events for Mr. Ehrlich.
"I am frankly surprised," he said. "It is unusual for a Republican candidate to get this much support in our community."
In his stump speech at the bagel shop, Mr. Ehrlich criticized Mrs. Townsend for comments she recently made to the weekly Jewish Times that "she doesn't understand why any Jew who really understands the issues could support Ehrlich."
"I want you to think about what is implicit in that statement," Mr. Ehrlich told the crowd. "You are all supposed to feel the same way because you all think alike. Right? All Jews think alike. All blacks think alike. All Democrats think alike. That's the mind-set that got us into these problems in the first place. That is the mind-set that we want to bring down in this campaign."
Mr. Ehrlich also criticized Mrs. Townsend for continuing to run what he described as a negative campaign, which included a reference to Mr. Ehrlich as a Nazi last week by political strategist Julius Henson, who was supposed to work for Mrs. Townsend's campaign and the state Democratic Party.
The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday that the campaign and the party had scrapped plans to hire Mr. Henson because of the Nazi comment.
"I was called a Nazi. But we are used to this," Mr. Ehrlich said, adding that his opponents had resorted to name-calling while he preferred to debate the issues.
At the folk festival, Mrs. Townsend said she stood by her comments in the Jewish Times. She said she held Jewish voters in the same high esteem as she did all Maryland voters.
"I can't imagine how anyone in Maryland can vote for him," Mrs. Townsend said.
She also condemned Mr. Henson's remarks.
"I think it is outrageous. He is not going to have anything to do with me or my campaign," Mrs. Townsend said. "That statement has no role in politics."
The unusually high level of Jewish support for Mr. Ehrlich is not universal.
George Lowy, 76, a Jewish resident of Silver Spring who wore a Townsend sticker on his shirt at the folk festival, said he did not think the Republican nominee would win over many of his Jewish friends, who are Democrats who were likely to always vote the Democratic ticket.
"We don't agree with them 100 percent," he said of Democratic candidates, "but we vote with them."


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