- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A Republican has announced plans to challenge state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer in the general election, despite an unusual pledge from the Republican governor to discourage Republican opposition to his Democratic ally.

Stephen Abrams, a Republican and member of the school board member in Montgomery County, says he will seek to challenge Mr. Schaefer next year.

The announcement came three months after the state’s top-ranking Republican, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., told Mr. Schaefer’s supporters that he would try to “keep the Republican slate clean” for Mr. Schaefer.

Mr. Abrams told the Baltimore Sun that he was running in case Mr. Schaefer, a supporter of Mr. Ehrlich, loses in a primary to a more-liberal Democrat.

“We need to make sure we are properly covered,” he said.

Mr. Schaefer, 84, is a former Baltimore mayor and governor who is a fixture of state politics.

He is expected to be challenged in the Democratic primary by state Delegate Peter Franchot, who has argued that the maverick Mr. Schaefer is too cozy with Republicans.

John Kane, the head of the state Republican Party, praised Mr. Abrams’ decision to enter the comptroller’s race, even though it appears to contradict the wishes of Mr. Ehrlich.

“Our job as a state party is to make sure we have competitive candidates in all races,” he told the Sun.

A spokesman for Mr. Schaefer said the comptroller wasn’t daunted and that Mr. Schaefer wasn’t surprised a Republican candidate stepped forward.

“I don’t really think the comptroller is concerned about a Republican candidate that may run against him in the general election,” said Michael Golden, the spokesman. “I don’t think he was expecting Bob Ehrlich to keep his party completely aligned, just as it is difficult to keep the Democratic Party completely aligned. There are so many voices.”

Maryland’s comptroller is one of just four state government posts elected statewide.

The comptroller has a vote on the three-member Board of Public Works, along with the governor, so Mr. Schaefer’s alignment with Mr. Ehrlich has strengthened the governor’s ability to steer state spending.

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