- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says he has put off searching for a running mate for his re-election bid while he contends with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

“Right now, we are preoccupied with the leftward, full-court press of the Democratic Party,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, says. “We are trying to stop it.”

Still, speculation abounds that Mr. Ehrlich will choose a running mate who is black or a woman — or both.

The governor likely will follow the precedent he set in 2002, when he tapped Michael S. Steele to be his lieutenant governor. Mr. Steele, a Republican who is the first black to win a statewide office in Maryland, is running for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Ehrlich says he personally will vet potential replacements for Mr. Steele, but that process will not begin until the General Assembly adjourns in April.

“I don’t know who Ehrlich will pick, but I do know that it won’t be a white man,” says Richard E. Vatz, a political communications professor at Towson University.

In 2002, Mr. Steele helped Mr. Ehrlich and the Republican Party make inroads to black communities that traditionally vote Democrat, including Mr. Steele’s home county of Prince George’s.

The Democratic gubernatorial contenders — Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan — have aimed to put blacks on their tickets.

Mr. O’Malley teamed up with Delegate Anthony G. Brown, a Prince George’s County Democrat who is of mixed Jamaican and Swiss ancestry, while Mr. Duncan reportedly also is seeking a black running mate from Prince George’s County.

Prince George’s is a key battleground in the governor’s race. It is Maryland’s second most-populous jurisdiction after Montgomery County and has the state’s largest concentration of registered Democrats — more than 319,000, according to Maryland State Board of Elections.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 in Maryland, making crossover voters indispensable to Mr. Ehrlich.

Often mentioned as a potential Ehrlich running mate is former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne K. Curry, a lifelong Democrat who would have to switch parties for the race.

Mr. Ehrlich also has some high-profile black Republicans to choose from, including Housing and Community Development Secretary Victor L. Hoskins and Victor Clark Jr., an official with the minority business office at the Department of Business and Economic Development.

The governor also has several women to consider as running mates, such as state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, Howard County Republican, and Secretary of State Mary D. Kane, who is married to Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane.

Another potential female contender is state Education Secretary Nancy S. Grasmick, a popular figure in state government but also a longtime Democrat.

Another oft-mentioned female Democratic contender is Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who has often been at odds with Mr. O’Malley over the city’s persistent crime problems.

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