- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

CAMBRIDGE — Baltimore’s crime problems and poor-performing schools were the dominant issues in a debate yesterday between the running mates for Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and his challenger, Martin O’Malley, Baltimore’s Democratic mayor.

“Let’s talk about the most dangerous city in the state, Baltimore city,” said Kristen Cox, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Disabilities and Mr. Ehrlich’s choice for lieutenant governor.

Mrs. Cox, 37, debated Delegate Anthony G. Brown, Prince George’s Democrat, for more than an hour on such issues as health care and transportation, but as the event drew to a close she hammered home the Ehrlich campaign’s chief criticisms of Mr. O’Malley.

“I don’t understand how you can talk about leadership and changing a state when you can’t even have continuity of leadership in your own city,” Mrs. Cox said, referring to the seven police commissioners that have served Baltimore since Mr. O’Malley was elected in 1999.

Mr. Brown, 44, tried to deflect Mrs. Cox’s criticisms in his closing statement, telling about 300 senior residents at the debate that Baltimore is “our city.”

The debate was sponsored by the AARP’s Maryland chapter.

“We all have a stake in Baltimore,” Mr. Brown said. “A city that the FBI a few years ago said was the most drug-addicted, is now seeing record lows in emergency-room, drug-related treatment. A city that saw a declining population for 30 years, last year 5,000 people returned to Baltimore, we’re anticipating [10,000] this year. People don’t come to cities that are not making progress.”

Mr. Brown ended by saying the gubernatorial race is “not about Baltimore. It’s about Maryland.”

The accuracy of crime statistics reported by the O’Malley administration has been questioned, and the police department has struggled through a series of scandals.

Eleven of the city’s schools have performed so badly that a state takeover was delayed this year only when the Democrat-controlled legislature intervened to give the city another year.

After the debate, voters said Baltimore’s woes would be a major factor when they voted Nov. 7.

They also credited Mr. Ehrlich with erasing the $4 billion deficit he inherited from former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, and turning it into a $2 billion surplus.

“I cannot see O’Malley running the state when he hasn’t run Baltimore very well,” said Philip D’Adamo, 85, who grew up in Baltimore and graduated from City College High School in 1943, one year ahead of William Donald Schaefer, who went on to become the city’s mayor, then governor.

Mr. D’Adamo’s nephew, Nicholas D’Adamo Jr., is a member of the Baltimore City Council.

“I’m disappointed in Baltimore. It’s a beautiful city, but I don’t think the government has been what it could be,” said Mr. D’Adamo, a Democrat who said he would vote for Mr. Ehrlich.

Marlene Hubbard, 74, a retired schoolteacher and a Republican, said she plan to vote for Mr. Ehrlich.

“I’ve seen what [Ehrlich’s] done, and I’m not too impressed with the conditions in Baltimore as I read about them,” Mrs. Hubbard said.

Even undecided voters such as George Cephas Jr., a corrections officer in Talbot County and a Democrat, said the governor deserves credit.

“Whether you like him or not, [Mr. Ehrlich] has definitely done some good things in Maryland,” Mr. Cephas said. “When [Republicans] came in and we had a bad budget deficit, they brought that deficit down.”

Mr. Brown contended during the debate that Mr. Ehrlich made up the state’s budget deficit by imposing $3 billion in new fees, tolls and taxes.

Mrs. Cox acknowledged the governor had been forced to make some “painful decisions,” and hours later the O’Malley campaign sent out a press release saying she had admitted that Mr. Ehrlich has raised taxes.

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