- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 28, 2006

Recent events in Maryland — in particular the overriding of dozens of vetoes by Gov. Robert Ehrlich by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly — highlight the importance of changing the composition of the legislature. All 188 seats — 47 in the Senate and 141 in the House of Delegates — are at stake. Democrats have a 32-15 majority in the Senate and a 98-43 majority in the House. Lopsided as this is, it actually reflects significant progress on the part of Republicans, who held just 24 seats in the General Assembly as recently as 1990.

The election of Mr. Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele four years ago was a landmark event in Maryland politics, returning Republicans to the govenor’s mansion for the first time since 1969. But the past four years have served to illustrate how a General Assembly controlled by liberal ideologues, like Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, asserts its dominance by passing ill-conceived legislation and then overriding gubernatorial vetoes, such as the legislation imposing a special tax on Wal-Mart to fund Medicaid, early voting, the minimum wage and a state takeover of failing Baltimore schools. In other cases, various factions of the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly have done their level best to prevent floor consideration of proposals to deny drivers licenses to illegal aliens and toughen penalties for sex offenders.

If Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley is elected next Tuesday, it would essentially guarantee that the left-liberal bloc will be firmly in control in Annapolis. But if the governor is re-elected and the center-right forces in the General Assembly are bolstered, Mr. Ehrlich could have the opportunity to go on the political offensive — unlike the past four years, where he has had to spend much of his time attempting to curb the General Assembly’s most destructive tendencies.

With that in mind, following are the endorsements of The Washington Times in some critical Senate races. (Key House endorsements will follow on Tuesday.):

In Maryland District 30, based in Anne Arundel County — an area which is trending Republican, the incumbent Democrat is Sen. John Astle, a Miller loyalist. He supported the medical-malpractice “reform” bill, passed last year over Mr. Ehrlich’s veto, which included a 2 percent tax on health-maintenance organizations. Mr. Astle also backed the early-voting law, which was rightly criticized by the League of Women Voters, which called it an “invitation to fraud.” His Republican challenger, is Delegate Herb McMillan of Annapolis an energetic conservative who disagrees with Mr. Astle on these and many other issues, including reform of Maryland’s eminent-domain laws. During his brief tenure in the General Assembly, Mr. McMillan has fought tenaciously for lower taxes and has taken a leadership role in attempting to reform Maryland’s loophole-ridden laws, which have made the state a veritable Mecca for illegal aliens seeking drivers licenses. The Washington Times endorses Herb McMillan for Maryland Senate.

In Maryland District 31, also in Anne Arundel County, incumbent Democratic Sen. Philip Jimeno is retiring after more than two decades in office. Republicans see a golden opportunity to pick up yet another Senate seat in Anne Arundel County, which Mr. Ehrlich carried by more than 30 points in 2002. Both the Democratic nominee, Walt Shandrowsky, a former state delegate, and Bryan Simonaire, an engineer, sound like conservatives — a natural fit for this district. We endorse Mr. Simonaire, who has the endorsement of local right-to-life and anti-tax groups: As a Republican, he will likely be a reliable conservative vote. While Mr. Shandrowsky is hardly a liberal, he would inevitably come under pressure from the Democratic Party leadership to tilt leftward. And the fact that Mr. Shandrowsky was endorsed by the very liberal Baltimore Sun is also cause for concern. The Washington Times endorses Bryan Simonaire for Maryland Senate.

In Maryland District 8, located in Baltimore County, freshman Democratic Sen. Katherine Klausmeier defends her vote in support of granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and says she’s proud of her vote for the Wal-Mart bill. Her challenger is Craig Borne, who believes just as strongly that Miss Klausmeier, a Miller ally, is wrong on both issues. Mr. Borne’s brand of moderate conservatism would represent a large step forward in this district, which currently has two Republican delegates and one Democratic delegate. The Washington Times endorses Craig Borne for Maryland Senate.

In Maryland District 12, which includes part of Baltimore and Howard Counties, Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, a 20-year incumbent, faces a stiff challenge from Rick Martel, a Catonsville attorney. Mr. Martel, a former Democrat, switched to the GOP years ago in response to the Democratic Party’s support for abortion on demand, and he criticizes Mr. Kasemeyer for consistently voting to support NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s position on abortion. Mr. Martel is also a strong supporter of Governor Ehrlich and sharply criticizes Mr. Kasemeyer’s many votes with Mike Miller on overriding dozens of Ehrlich vetoes. Mr. Martel is also critical of Mr. Kasemeyer for siding with Mr. O’Malley when the mayor balked at implementing needed financial reforms in Baltimore schools. The Washington Times endorses Rick Martel for Maryland Senate.

In Maryland District 13, located in Howard County, Democrats outnumber Republicans. Incumbent Republican Sen. Sandra Schrader, a thoughtful moderate, faces a tough challenge from Howard County Executive James Robey. Mr. Robey’s supporters, apparently bereft of serious issues on which to attack Mrs. Schrader, are stooping pretty low this time: The Annapolis-based Democratic Senatorial Committee, which has made unseating Mrs. Schrader a top priority, has resorted to distributing fliers falsely depicting her as an opponent of birth control. The advertisements depict a man who is apparently a doctor telling a woman: “I’m sorry, but Sandy Schrader says birth control is off-limits.” Mrs. Schrader’s offense? Being part of a bipartisan coalition of senators who had the good sense to vote in committee against the sale of the “morning after” pill to minors. The truth is that Mrs. Schrader, (who for the record is pro-choice on abortion) favors making the pills available to adults, but not teen-agers. “I don’t consider 12, 15-year-olds women. They’re girls,” she points out. That commonsense distinction, however, appears to be lost on Mr. Robey, who appeared to defend the smear in an interview with The Washington Post. We urge voters to reject the Democrats’ distortions of Mrs. Schrader’s record. The Washington Times endorses Sandra Schrader for Maryland Senate.

Maryland District 29, a Southern Maryland district represented by moderate Democratic Sen. Roy Dyson, is high on the target list of Republicans looking to make it more difficult for Democrats to override future vetoes by Mr. Ehrlich. Tom McKay, president of the St. Mary’s County Board of Commissioners, has sharply criticized Mr. Dyson for voting to override the governor’s veto of the legislation barring the takeover of failing Baltimore schools. Mr. Dyson, who is endorsed by a powerful teacher’s union, the Maryland State Teachers Association, has defended the vote, saying that if the state takes over the Baltimore schools, it might have to do the same in the case of poorly performing schools in St. Mary’s County. Mr. McKay criticizes the incumbent, who voted to override Mr. Ehrlich’s veto of the Wal-Mart tax, for being part of a General Assembly that is chasing businesses away. The Washington Times endorses Tom McKay for Maryland Senate.

In Maryland District 42, located in Baltimore County, former county councilman Doug Riley is the Republican challenging incumbent Democrat James Brochin. Although Mr. Brochin is not a knee-jerk liberal, he has voted numerous times to override Mr. Ehrlich’s vetoes of the minimum wage and other irresponsible legislation rammed through by Mike Miller and the Democratic leadership. Mr. Riley would be a huge improvement and a better fit for the district, which was carried overwhelmingly by Mr. Ehrlich four years ago. The Washington Times endorses Doug Riley for Maryland Senate.

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