- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Boisterous cheers greeted Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as he walked in the third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade yesterday in Baltimore, a majority-black and overwhelmingly Democratic city where the Republican won just 24 percent of the vote in November.
Many in the almost exclusively black crowd that lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard said they felt the new governor deserved a chance to show what he could do and they appreciated his participating in an event that had been viewed widely as a blacks-only affair.
"He is letting the people know that he does care about this day," said Willie Austin, 33, a construction worker from Baltimore. "It's good for him to show us that he supports us."
Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening did not take part in the city's two previous Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades, organizers said.
Yesterday's cheers and applause for Mr. Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the state's first black elected to statewide office, came just five days after the inauguration.
Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele walked the three-mile route at the front of the parade of marching bands, sports mascots, fire engines and motorized trolleys.
As he passed, the governor was acknowledged with at least as much applause as the parade grand marshal, Judge Mablean Ephriam of the television show "Divorce Court."
Many said their cheers will turn to jeers quickly if the governor fails to make good on his promise to expand opportunities for minorities and to protect the poor and disadvantaged.
Baltimore crowds are notoriously blunt when it comes to expressing opinions of elected officials in parades. Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who at one time was a popular Baltimore mayor, was confronted by a chorus of boos in the city's Fourth of July parades in the early 1990s, after he made deep budget cuts during an economic recession.
Leroy Bannister, 55, said he voted for Mr. Ehrlich's Democratic opponent, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, but would support the new governor. He blamed what he called Mr. Glendening's failure to keep his word for helping elect a Republican as Maryland governor for the first time in more than three decades.
"Campaign promises are campaign promises. It's really about what you actually do," said Mr. Bannister, a manager at a General Motors plant. "We've got to give him a chance."
Mr. Ehrlich campaigned heavily in Baltimore and won an impressive share of the vote for a Republican.
"He's going to try to make a change," said Tony Payton, 20, a Baltimore hairstylist who voted for Mr. Ehrlich.
Jenae Alexander, 22, didn't vote for Mr. Ehrlich. "I'm willing to give him a chance," said the homemaker, who brought her 3-month-old daughter and 4-year-old son to the parade. "He seems like he cares. He seems sincere."
"He's young and smart. He could do good for the state," said Ruth Wilson, who voted for Mrs. Townsend.
Mrs. Wilson, a grandmother who brought most of her family to watch the parade, also said she was glad to see the governor making a public appearance to commemorate a civil rights leader. "People should know the governor. Not just the adults, but the children, too," she said.
Some in the crowd were more skeptical.
"It's just a show," said Talos Owens, 14, a student at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore.
Laura Skinner, 56, a public-school teacher, also didn't give much credence to Mr. Ehrlich's parade appearance. "If he hadn't been in the parade, people would have wanted to know why," she said. "So it's a show."

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