- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

FREDERICK, Md. — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday brought his entire Cabinet here for a full day of announcements and events that also allowed him to showcase his running mate in his re-election bid.

“This is both personal, emotional and political therapy for me,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican.

He was visiting the Maryland School for the Deaf with state Disabilities Secretary Kristen Cox, his running mate, who is blind. “We obviously have a lot of support here. I feel very welcome here.”

The governor convened a full Cabinet meeting at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in downtown Frederick.

Mr. Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, entered the darkened auditorium under a spotlight as Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s song “Taking Care of Business” boomed over the loudspeakers.

The packed house gave Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele a 60-second standing ovation.

Later, Mr. Ehrlich visited the North American headquarters in Frederick of BP Solar, a photovoltaic manufacturing division of the British energy company BP PLC. He called on the Democrat-controlled legislature to enact his alternative-energy plan, which would require 10 percent of the state’s energy to come from wind or solar power.

The administration plans to install solar power systems on several public buildings such as the State Center office complex in downtown Baltimore and the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, administration officials said.

Mr. Ehrlich also promoted Maryland as the site for a $500 million biosciences energy research laboratory that BP plans to build in the United States or the United Kingdom.

The state government uses 1 billion kilowatts of electricity annually, and none of it comes from renewable sources despite a 2001 executive order signed by Mr. Ehrlich’s Democratic predecessor, Parris N. Glendening.

The order requires the state to obtain 6 percent of its electricity from alternatives to fossil fuels, but no budget has been established for the Glendening program, said Michael Li, a renewable-energy specialist with the Maryland Energy Administration.

Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman said it was inappropriate for Mr. Ehrlich to use a state government trip to promote his re-election campaign.

“But in his TV ads he’s been running for years, he’s broken the rules on using taxpayer dollars for what we consider to be campaign ads,” Mr. Lierman said.

Mr. Ehrlich said he has visited different parts of the state with his entire Cabinet since 2003, adding that yesterday’s trip was simply Frederick’s turn to receive a visit.

Nonetheless, the Cabinet meeting, while focused on local issues such as unemployment, appeared close to doubling as a campaign rally.

During the meeting, Mr. Ehrlich said the Democratic leadership in Annapolis is “anti-success” and anti-business.

“It must be an issue in this election year,” he said.

At tables covered in white cloth on a large stage, all of the Cabinet secretaries sat near Mr. Steele and Mr. Ehrlich, but Mrs. Cox sat closest.

Mrs. Cox was the only secretary who spoke during the meeting, and she was featured in a video about the Department of Disabilities, which the Ehrlich administration created in 2004 and says is the first of its kind in the country.

Mr. Ehrlich is aiming to repeat his 2002 success in collecting centrist votes by promoting a sometimes overlooked group: the disabled. Mr. Steele became the first black to be elected to a Maryland statewide office in 2002.

But Mr. Lierman said Mr. Ehrlich is “the governor of deception.”

“His budgets don’t match his rhetoric,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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