- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

On many occasions during the past four years, it has seemed like Gov. Robert Ehrlich has been one of the few leaders in Annapolis providing a measure of adult supervision over state government. In particular, we admire Mr. Ehrlich’s willingness to challenge the class-warfare demagoguery and reflexive support for higher taxes that has long dominated Maryland politics.

Although we’ve disagreed with him from time to time, Mr. Ehrlich, who in 2003 became the first Republican elected governor of Maryland since Spiro Agnew’s resignation 34 years earlier, deserves high praise for his willingness to stand up to Senate President Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch and the rest of the liberal ideologues that dominate the state Democratic Party. Time and again, the governor has done the right (if sometimes politically unpopular) thing, vetoing bad legislation, only to see the General Assembly override him. This occurred on bills which included a punitive, discriminatory tax on Wal-Mart pushed by organized labor and Giant Food, a corporate rival; a minimum-wage increase; a bill firing members of the Maryland Public Service Commission; a “medical malpractice reform” bill that featured a new tax on health-maintenance organizations and an early-voting bill that raised serious concerns about electoral fraud.

The Washington Times is proud to endorse Mr. Ehrlich’s re-election, with an addendum: It is no less important to elect more moderate and conservative Republicans and Democrats to the General Assembly in order to help the governor sustain his necessary vetoes and go on the political offense as well. Six months ago, Mr. Ehrlich demonstrated how the latter could work, as he successfully pressed Mr. Busch to allow legislation increasing penalties for sex offenders to become law.

In three instances this year, the General Assembly’s overrides of Mr. Ehrlich’s vetoes were struck down in court — the Public Service Commission and early-voting bills by state courts (mostly by judges who were appointed by previous Democratic governors of Maryland) and the Wal-Mart bill by a federal judge. But Marylanders should not have to be dependent on the courts to rein in an irresponsible General Assembly time and again. Instead of relying upon the judiciary to clean up the mess made by Messrs. Busch and Miller’s minions, they need to elect a higher-caliber General Assembly.

One of the many reasons we oppose Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s election as governor is his cozy relationship with the liberals who run the legislature. Whether the issue is Wal-Mart, tax increases, drivers licenses or in-state tuition for illegal aliens or questionable early-voting scheme, Mr. O’Malley and Messrs. Busch and Miller and the overwhelming majority of General Assembly Democrats have routinely lined up against Mr. Ehrlich. (We also commend the governor’s work for money to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and his effort to persuade the legislature to approve legislation putting slot machines at race tracks. Unfortunately, this effort to come up with another revenue source was blocked by Mr. Busch, who prefers higher taxes.)

The disgraceful episode involving the state takeover of 11 failing Baltimore public schools that took place earlier this year illustrates the perverse relationship between Mr. O’Malley and the liberal Democratic Party leadership in Maryland. Last year, the Maryland Board of Education moved to take control of the schools, which had been on a state “watch list” since 1997. One of the schools was Baltimore’s Douglass High, where just 3 percent of students managed to pass a geometry proficiency test and just one percent passed a similar biology test. But in order to spare Mr. O’Malley the indignity of a state takeover, the General Assembly this year overrode Mr. Ehrlich’s veto of legislation keeping Douglass High and the other failing schools under the mayor’s control. Mr. Ehrlich has spent much of the last four years fighting in essence to minimize the damage that such irresponsible politicians have been doing. But if Mr. O’Malley wins on Nov. 7, it means that Messrs. Miller, Busch and the teachers unions that are heavily invested in the status quo will have more opportunities for such mischief.

Marylanders deserve better. That’s why The Washington Times strongly endorses Gov. Robert Ehrlich for re-election — along with the election of a more responsible, conservative General Assembly.

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