- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006

A black Maryland Republican has ended his run for Congress and will try to unseat Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s nemesis in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly — state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

“I do believe I can make a bigger difference here,” Ron Miller, a former U.S. Homeland Security official who now works at a tech consulting company in Fairfax, said yesterday.

For the past four months, the Calvert County resident had been challenging House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer for Maryland’s 5th Congressional District seat, which Mr. Hoyer has held since 1982.

Yesterday, he announced he is aiming for the state Senate’s 27th District seat, which Mike Miller has held since 1975.

“Mike Miller has served too long,” Ron Miller said in press release on his Web site (www.ronmillerforcongress.com), which was being converted into a “Ron Miller for Maryland” site yesterday.

Ehrlich administration officials declined to comment on Ron Miller’s candidacy.

But Ron Miller, a decorated Air Force veteran, said he was asked Wednesday to meet with members of the governor’s staff and state party officials who suggested he switch races.

“They wanted to field a viable candidate against Mike Miller, because his presence in the General Assembly was probably the single most important one in terms of their ability to move forward with the governor’s agenda,” he said.

Mike Miller has wielded the Senate gavel for 19 years and is the longest-serving state Senate president in the country.

He and Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican seeking re-election, worked together during the governor’s first three years on an unsuccessful bid to bring slot machines to horse-racing tracks in the state. However, the Senate president also killed Mr. Ehrlich’s plan to reform the state’s medical-malpractice insurance system.

This year their relationship soured, as the legislature overrode 17 of Mr. Ehrlich’s vetoes during the regular session and three more in the special session.

What’s more, Democratic lawmakers have stripped the governor of many long-held powers and privileges, including free rein to select the members of the utility-regulating Public Service Commission.

“When the governor was first elected, the Senate president told him he would work with him for the first three years and in the fourth year, all bets were off. This is one promise the Senate president was able to keep,” Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said.

Mike Miller said Mr. Ehrlich’s push for Ron Miller to run was part of the governor’s re-election effort.

“I’ve got substantial resources, good name recognition, and I’m going to be involved in at least nine other races around the state, heavily, defending races Bob Ehrlich is going to be targeting,” Mike Miller said. “It’s about maximizing [Mr. Ehrlich’s] resources, and tying down his opponents’ resources.”

Mr. Ehrlich, the state’s first Republican governor in more than 30 years, won in 2002 with running mate Michael S. Steele, the first black to win a statewide office in Maryland.

The governor has tapped state Disabilities Secretary Kristen Cox, who is legally blind, as his running mate because Mr. Steele is running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ehrlich’s likely Democratic challenger — Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley — has chosen as his running mate Delegate Anthony G. Brown, a black Democrat from Prince George’s County.

According to the 2000 census, blacks account for about 28 percent of Maryland’s 5.3 million residents. And blacks are believed to make up an even larger percentage of the state’s 1.7 million registered Democratic voters, who outnumber Republicans 2-to-1.

Ron Miller said he had thought and prayed about switching races, and sought advice from his pastor and others. He took phone calls from various political figures, including Mr. Ehrlich, who urged him to run against Mike Miller, he said.

On Friday, he decided to change races, motivated by what he described as the Senate president’s partisan obstructionism.

“I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so egregious as what I saw in this last General Assembly,” he said. “It was so obvious to even casual observers that these actions were not about serving the people. It was, ‘How can we make the governor look bad?’ And that’s not why people send legislators to the legislature.”

Derek Walker, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said Mike Miller’s “constituents know his record and his leadership, and they’re not going to buy into the nasty and divisive campaign that the governor and his minions are going to put forward.”

Audra Miller, spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party, said Ron Miller’s candidacy represents an opportunity to take back power from a legislature controlled by Democrats for four decades.

“It is not only winnable, but in this cycle alone there is a lot of opportunity to make structural changes to the way our representation is in Annapolis,” said Audra Miller.

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