- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

Thanks to Maryland Democratic Party chief Terry Lierman, House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller, Gov. Robert Ehrlich will have no shortage of issues to run on this year. If Mr. Ehrlich is to win re-election in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-1 (and, equally important, enable Republicans to gain seats in the General Assembly) he will need to show voters that the Democratic Party establishment has swung so far to the left that it is out of touch with the values of Marylanders on subjects like felon voting, homosexual “marriage” and illegal immigration.

The governor would also do well to emphasize that General Assembly Democrats have been fighting for tax increases and regulatory schemes that destroy job opportunities and damage the business climate in the state. This includes at least three pieces of legislation — the Wal-Mart tax bill; the minimum-wage increase; and malpractice legislation that included a new tax on health maintenance organizations — on which the General Assembly overrode Mr. Ehrlich’s vetoes.

Given that Mr. Ehrlich’s re-election depends in large part on his ability to demonstrate to the tens of thousands of moderate and conservative Democrats who voted for him in 2002 that the Democratic Party leadership has veered to the left, it is heartening to see that the governor is making it clear to voters where he disagrees with liberal orthodoxy.

Last week, Mr. Ehrlich told S.A. Miller of The Times that he will veto a bill being pushed by Del. Salima Siler Marriott of Baltimore and more than 30 other Democratic delegates that would permit murderers and rapists to vote as soon as they are released from prison. Mr. Ehrlich has also declared his support for legislative efforts to place on the November ballot a referendum that would overturn a bizarre ruling by a Baltimore judge declaring that Maryland law limiting marriage to one man and one woman was unconstitutional. Leading Democrats in the General Assembly, who realize that a ballot measure barring homosexual “marriage” will bring more center-right people out to vote, are understandably terrified by that prospect. We hope that, in the coming weeks, Gov. Ehrlich will take a leadership role in working with lawmakers of both parties to ensure that the General Assembly permits Marylanders to vote on the issue this year.

And finally, we urge the governor to support the legislation filed by Delegate Herbert McMillan, Anne Arundel Republican, last week (H.B. 1443) that would ban illegal aliens from obtaining Maryland driver’s licenses and bring Maryland into compliance with the REAL ID legislation passed by Congress last year. If such legislation is not passed by 2008, Marylanders will be unable to use state driver’s licenses to board an airplane. But unless Mr. Ehrlich is prepared to act, General Assembly Democrats will defeat this critical homeland-security bill. The governor should support it and challenge Martin O’Malley and Doug Duncan to do the same.

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