- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s record on homeland security has won support among Montgomery County Jewish voters who traditionally vote for Democrats, community leaders say.

“He certainly has gained respect among many Jews,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, a Rockville-based organization representing more than 200 Jewish groups and synagogues in the District and its suburbs.

Rabbi Jack A. Luxemburg of Temple Beth Ami, a congregation of about 1,200 families in Rockville, said the governor can expect “appreciable” support among the county’s Jewish voters.

“I would have to say the governor has reached out to the Jewish community and has been responsive to any number of Jewish concerns,” he said. “I do think he will do better with the Jewish community than he did four years ago, but I don’t think it will be remarkably better.”

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, is seeking re-election in a heated contest with Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Halber said Mr. Ehrlich impressed the Jewish community most by working to get an extra $25,000 a year in federal Department of Homeland Security funds to protect Jewish schools and synagogues.

“We are living in a dangerous world. Anti-Semitism in Europe is at a high not seen since World War II,” Mr. Halber said. “The governor was really up in front and said, ‘We have to do something about it,’ and made [the security funds] happen.”

Mr. Halber and other Jewish leaders also noted Mr. Ehrlich’s public support of Israel’s war with Hezbollah this summer and his policies for assisting disabled people and expanding access to elder care.

David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, expressed doubt that Mr. Ehrlich’s gains among Jewish voters would be enough to decide the outcome of the Nov. 7 election.

“I’m sure Bob Ehrlich is going to get some votes from Jewish voters, as he did four years ago,” Mr. Paulson said. “If he is gaining support, maintaining support or losing support is anyone’s guess. … The issue for Ehrlich is his failed record as governor.”

Mr. Ehrlich told The Washington Times last week that he expects an “uptick” in support among Montgomery County’s Jewish community, but he conceded that he likely will not carry the heavily Democratic county.

Mr. O’Malley has led Mr. Ehrlich in most statewide polls.

The mayor consistently has polled ahead of Mr. Ehrlich in Montgomery County by as much as 20 percentage points. Mr. O’Malley has a similar advantage in the Democratic strongholds of Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1 in Maryland.

About 75 percent of Maryland’s roughly 180,000 Jewish voters — who mostly live in Montgomery and Baltimore counties — are thought to vote Democratic.

In 2002, Mr. Ehrlich won in part because of a decisive victory in Baltimore County, where he had strong support among Jewish voters.

He did not have much support among Montgomery County’s Jewish voters that year.

The governor said he again expects solid support among Baltimore County’s Jewish community.

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