- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

1:20 p.m.

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. this morning announced his running mate in his re-election bid as Kristen Cox, a blind woman and secretary of the state’s Department of Disabilities.

“Her intellect is stunning, but its nothing compared to her drive and energy,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican.

Mrs. Cox, 36, has served as the agency’s secretary since 2004, when Mr. Ehrlich created the Cabinet-level position, which administration officials say is the first of its kind in the country.

“Most politicians dont step up and make disabilities a key part of their platform,” said Mrs. Cox, flanked by her husband, Randy and their two sons, Tanner, 10, and Riley, 1. “Lifting up the disadvantaged is such a top priority for me and for this governor.”

Mrs. Cox, a Mormon who lives in Towson, left a job with the Department of Education in 2003 to oversee the disabilities agency.

From 1998 to 2001, Mrs. Cox was a lobbyist on Capitol Hill for the National Federation for the Blind.

It was on Capitol Hill that she met Mr. Ehrlich, then a congressman from Baltimore County, who in 2002 became Marylands first Republican governor since 1966.

“Today, we again make history in the state of Maryland,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

Political observers have said Mrs. Cox will be an asset because Mr. Ehrlichs selection of her sends a message of inclusion and empowerment.

However, Mrs. Cox has never run for office and has little political experience.

“It demonstrates that the governor doesnt put politics first,” said Audra Miller of the states Republican Party.

Mr. Ehrlich made history with his choice of a running mate in 2002 when he picked Michael S. Steele, the former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, who is black.

Mr. Steele became the first black person elected to statewide office in Maryland and is running for the U.S. Senate.

The gubernatorial race appears to be a head-to-head contest between Mr. Ehrlich and Baltimore Mayor Martin OMalley, a Democrat.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan dropped out of the Democratic primary last week, citing clinical depression.

Mr. OMalley months ago declared his running mate, Delegate Anthony G. Brown, a Prince Georges Democrat who is black.

Mr. OMalley is ahead in the polls but will be pressed to keep pace with Mr. Ehrlichs fundraising totals, which are expected to reach about $20 million.

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