- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

OCEAN CITY — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made his case yesterday for a second term, saying he’s been a good steward of state finances and should be kept in office.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, repeated his campaign themes before an audience of several hundred at the annual Maryland Association of Counties meeting. He said he steered the state out of a fiscal crisis when he took office in 2003 and that he increased school construction.

He also thanked voters for having the courage to elect a Republican as Maryland governor for the first time in more than 30 years.

“I know there was a degree of trepidation,” he said. “The concept of shared power in Annapolis was quite unique.”

The governor spent most of his 45-minute speech cataloging what he considered the accomplishments of his term. He said test scores are increasing in many school districts and that thousands of high-paying jobs are coming to Maryland because of military realignment.

Mr. Ehrlich named some road-improvement projects during his term but said he could have gone on “literally for the next hour” about such work.

He did not mention his inability to get slot-machine gambling approved but acknowledged not always getting his way with a Democrat-controlled legislature.

Mr. Ehrlich suggested that if re-elected he would want more funding to build new schools and said he planned to push for more affordable housing.

“Our nurses, our lab technicians, our police, our firemen need to live in or near the communities where they work,” he said.

Reaction to the speech was relatively partisan. Joe Cupani, a Republican and Queen Anne’s County commissioner, said Mr. Ehrlich should be credited for taking over when the state faced fiscal challenges.

“Anybody who can take a deficit where it was and sort of guide the state and the economy around is doing a great job,” he said.

Clara Floyd, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, was pleased to hear Mr. Ehrlich talk about more school construction, but her organization has endorsed his Democratic challenger, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley.

“We worked very, very hard” to get the funding already called for by state law, she said.

Governors traditionally address county officials to close the annual summer conference. County workers came to the resort Thursday for study sessions. Aspiring politicians also flocked to the gathering.

Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. O’Malley held receptions Thursday night. U.S. Senate hopefuls Kweisi Mfume and U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrats, were among other candidates in the upcoming election to attend a crab feast Friday evening.

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