- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

ARBUTUS, Md. Over large ceramic plates heaped with hash browns, roast beef and buttered toast, people at Leon's Triple L Restaurant on East Drive talk mostly about one thing these days: the hometown boy who made good.
Almost everyone you run into here says they know Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., or his parents, Nancy and Bob Sr., who still live in the brick row house they bought for $11,200 when their son was 12.
Almost everyone here shared a handshake with the governor-elect during his campaign, when he often stopped at Leon's, his "unofficial headquarters," to talk to his hometown folks and enjoy a bowl of crab soup.
And now, almost everyone is waiting for a parade in his honor that will wind down East Drive on Sunday, leading up to his inauguration on Wednesday as Maryland's first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew in the late 1960s.
The unglamorous town of 21,000, a suburb of Baltimore, flashed onto Maryland's radar after Mr. Ehrlich won the election in November in a state where two-thirds of the voters are registered Democrats.
Arbutus, too, is considered a Democratic town. But residents here say they opted for their hometown son over a Kennedy because of his "down-to-earth" attitude.
"Arbutus overwhelmingly supported Bob," said Leon Lineburg, the 71-year-old owner of Leon's who went to school with Mr. Ehrlich's mother.
Mr. Lineburg, who set up the restaurant 43 years ago and calls himself the "local yokel," has been a lifelong friend of Mr. Ehrlich's parents. They still eat breakfast at his restaurant twice a week.
The elder Mr. Ehrlich, a retired car salesman, "is a restless man who can't stand too long in one spot," he said.
He didn't know Mr. Ehrlich very well as a child, but adds that Bob Jr. is a lot like his mother.
"When Nancy speaks, everybody stands up," he said. "Bob is very much like his mother. He got into this race to win, and he has not lost many battles."
Mr. Lineburg said it makes sense that he should be chosen to lead the state.
"He is personable and nice-looking and he came from grass-roots people. It worked."
Arbutus came up in the late 1800s as a stop along the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad line running between Baltimore and Washington.
It is still a working-class community with a mix of old and young. Despite its proximity to a big city, most people retain a kind and friendly charm, even toward strangers.
But on Delores Avenue, where Mr. Ehrlich grew up, neighbors are still adjusting to all the attention their little street is getting.
"I don't read newspapers, I only listen to talk radio," says one neighbor, before rushing indoors.
Another neighbor slams the door shut.
Glen Peacock, 32, a firefighter who has lived in the neighborhood for a year, remembers how he found out where Mr. Ehrlich grew up. Mr. Peacock said he saw a swarm of reporters at the house across the street from where he lives on the day Mr. Ehrlich announced he was running for governor.
Mr. Peacock, a Democrat, said he voted for Mr. Ehrlich because he appreciated the governor-elect's support for firefighters.
"Also, he is a hometown boy," he said.
George Kendricks, who was a football coach in the Arbutus Athletic Association in the '60s, remembers Mr. Ehrlich as an "excellent young man."
"He always did his homework first so he could come out and play. He was a good baseball player, too," said Mr. Kendricks, 80, who is organizing the parade.
Mr. Ehrlich still maintains strong ties with Arbutus and his old friends."He usually comes out to see the [athletic associations] football game at Thanksgiving," he said
Over at Leon's, one woman who did not grow up in Arbutus still has a soft spot for one of Mr. Ehrlich's proposals.
For 15 years, Carolyn Robinson, 63, a Baltimore resident, has been making the hotcakes and baking rolls that, among other things, make the restaurant a landmark.
She says she loves the idea of slots coming to Maryland racetracks, and told the governor-elect she thought so.
"He said I was right," said Mrs. Robinson.
Waiting for her breakfast to arrive, Carilyn Maguire, 70, said she found Mr. Ehrlich "outgoing, sincere and sensitive."
"His parents are down-to-earth, ordinary people," she said, adding that she decided to vote for Mr. Ehrlich despite being a registered Democrat, because he held the promise of change.
She said she would attend Sunday's parade to cheer him on, just like she knew most other people in Arbutus would.
"He has a lot more common sense than the past administration," she said

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