- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was sworn in yesterday as Maryland's first Republican governor in 36 years and vowed, "We will attempt to do what is right, not what is most convenient or politically correct."
Standing at the steps of the State House in Annapolis on a clear, frigid day, Mr. Ehrlich told residents that he would make their neighborhoods safer, fight drug abuse, defend against terrorists and improve education.
Mr. Ehrlich, the 45-year-old son of a car salesman, also promised to ask the government to "live within its means" and value every taxpayer dollar.
"We should not be fearful of change, of reform or better ideas, particularly when public dollars are at stake," he said.
"Our police and public-safety resources must be utilized more effectively and coordinated better with those of the federal government."
Michael S. Steele, 44, made state history as the first black man to become the state's lieutenant governor.
In his speech, Mr Steele evoked his black heritage and pointed out that yesterday also was Martin Luther King birthday.
"Nearly 40 years ago Martin Luther King had a dream that we would live in a nation where we are not judged by the color of our skin," he said. "Maryland leads America in making that dream a reality."
Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele begin their term amid a $1.8 billion state budget deficit. Mr. Ehrlich will present his budget tomorrow to the General Assembly, and it is expected to include a proposal to legalize slot machines to raise $800 million.
Mr. Ehrlich, the state's 60th governor and the first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew, who was elected in 1966, will work with a Democrat-led legislature and a voter population that is two-thirds registered Democrat.
But partisan politics took a back seat yesterday as Democrats and Republicans gathered at the steps of the State House while Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele received their oaths from Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.
In the background, about 75 protesters raised signs opposing the death penalty. A moratorium on capital punishment, imposed by Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, ended when Mr. Ehrlich took office.
Mr. Ehrlich had said he would reinstate the death penalty, but staffers say he will, instead, create a task force under Mr. Steele to review each death-row case.
The inauguration ceremony on the State House steps included a 19-gun salute and was followed by a parade of high school bands and a reception at the Government House.
A half-hour before the outdoor events, the two took their official oaths in the Senate chamber.
Most of the about 2,500 people attending the events at the State House were covered from head to toe, but they still struggled to keep warm on a day Comptroller William Donald Schaefer called the "coldest in the history of Maryland."
Mr. Ehrlich's opponent in the November elections, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, also attended the outdoor swearing-in. Mr. Ehrlich singled her out for a handshake and a kiss on the cheek.
"Boy, I am so proud you are here today," he said. "Thank you so much."
Mr. Glendening did not attend the inauguration event, and Mr. Ehrlich skipped over the part of his prepared speech that thanked the outgoing governor for his "strong commitment to the environment and excellence in higher education."
Mr. Schaefer, a Democrat and Mr. Glendening's archcritic, introduced Mr. Ehrlich yesterday and pledged to work with the incoming Republican administration.
"I promise to make the Board of Public Works meetings uninteresting for the next six months," he said, joking about his acerbic exchanges with Mr. Glendening at the meetings.
He also said there was "no room for divisions" in running a state government and praised Mr. Ehrlich for his integrity, enthusiasm and determination.
"He is not afraid to take risks," Mr. Schaefer said. "He cares about people and listens to them. He really cares. I want Bob Ehrlich to succeed."
Among other front-line Democratic lawmakers at the ceremonies were House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., House Majority Leader Kumar Barve and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.
Mr. Ehrlich's former congressional colleagues from Maryland Democratic U.S. Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Benjamin L. Cardin also were in attendance.
The welcome address was delivered by Jack Kemp, a former Republican vice-presidential candidate, who promised that "Bob and Michael will make things happen from Bethesda to Baltimore."
Mr. Ehrlich was born in the small, working-class town of Arbutus outside Baltimore, where his parents still live in a brick row house they purchased for $11,500 when Mr. Ehrlich was 12.
His mother, Nancy, is a legal secretary. His father, Bob Sr., is a former Marine and Korean War veteran who worked as a commission-only car salesman.
Mr. Ehrlich attended Princeton University on a football scholarship and graduated in 1979. His political career began 16 years ago as a state delegate. He became a congressman in 1994, then ran for governor last year.
Mr. Ehrlich campaigned as a moderate and was considered a long shot in the gubernatorial race to beat Mrs. Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and niece of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.
Her strong name recognition and $6 million war chest scared off many Democratic heavyweights in the primary, leading some to dub her the heir apparent to Mr. Glendening.
By the end of the campaign, Mr. Ehrlich had surpassed Mrs. Townsend in fund raising, taking in $10.4 million to her $8.5 million to break the state's fund-raising record for a gubernatorial contest.
Mr. Ehrlich's war chest got a boost from President Bush's appearance at an Oct. 2 fund-raising event in Baltimore where the latter delivered a glowing endorsement and supporters contributed about $1.8 million to the campaign.
Mr. Bush sent Mr. Ehrlich a note of congratulations yesterday.
"Serving as a governor is a great honor," he wrote. "My administration looks forward to working with you on issues that affect Maryland and the United States."
Mr. Steele, a Prince George's County native, also is the first black state Republican Party chairman in the nation.
His father died when he was young. His mother worked at a laundry, and his stepfather worked as a limousine driver, often transporting Mrs. Townsend's father, so that the Steele children could attend parochial schools and college.
Mr. Steele studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood before deciding to become a lawyer. Many of his views are considered more conservative than those of Mr. Ehrlich.
He promised every Marylander yesterday a place at the Ehrlich-Steele table.
"Your concerns will be noted and your interests served," he said.
Lynn Monias, 41, of Annapolis was particularly impressed with Mr. Ehrlich's promise to make the government live within its means.
"He is hard-working and a nice man," she said.


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