- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says his re-election campaign has made substantial inroads to Prince George’s County, a key battleground in the mostly Democratic state.

“I have seen a dramatic turnaround In Prince George’s County,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, told reporters during a recent visit to Towson University. “Compared to being a complete stranger [there] four-and-a-half years ago, it has gone to a lot of obvious support.”

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, is redoubling his get-out-the-vote effort in the majority-black county. He started paying people this week to canvass neighborhoods and drive vans to get Democratic voters to the polls.

Low voter turnout in Prince George’s in 2002 helped Mr. Ehrlich win the governor’s office for the Republican Party for the first time in more than 30 years. He won the election despite receiving only 24 percent of the vote in the county, which has the most registered Democrats in the state and has been central to the party’s longtime control of Maryland politics.

Mr. Ehrlich’s then-running mate — Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is running for the U.S. Senate — became the first black to win a statewide office in the election.

Today, the governor credits increased support for him in the county to his close working relationship with Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat.

“Our record In Prince George’s County is one of activism,” Mr. Ehrlich said, citing the rescue of the county’s hospital system and policies that bolstered the county’s economy.

However, Johnson spokesman James P. Keary expressed skepticism that the governor’s attention to the county would translate into votes.

“The governor did work closely with the county executive to get things done, like state funding for the hospital system for the first time and most recently support for bringing the national PGA Tour to the county,” Mr. Keary said. “But you have to remember, it is still a majority Democratic county. … When you serve as governor, you serve the residents, whether they vote for you or not.”

Mr. Ehrlich said that his campaign’s internal polls show “substantial” gains in the county, though not enough to win the majority there.

O’Malley campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan yesterday said he doesn’t trust the Ehrlich campaign’s numbers. He cited a USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday that showed Mr. O’Malley leading Mr. Ehrlich 53 percent to 41 percent among likely voters statewide.

“I wonder how these numbers compare to Bob Ehrlich’s super, double-secret internal polls that he has been desperately telling reporters about for months?” Mr. Sevugan said. “Nothing he says can be trusted.”

Meanwhile, Mr. O’Malley’s paid get-out-the-vote strategy is focused solely on Prince George’s, which is also the home of his running mate, Delegate Anthony G. Brown.

The mayor recently posted an ad on Craig’s List, an Internet classified marketplace, offering to pay get-out-the-vote workers in the county $10 an hour to go door-to-door and $15 an hour to drive vans. The jobs were available starting Thursday until the Nov. 7 election.

“Payment will be check with company arranging for expedited check cashing convenient to job location,” the ad says. “Tell your friends.”

Mr. Ehrlich does not advertise for get-out-the-vote workers, but he does pay some campaign staff to go door-to-door and work phone banks in Prince George’s County and Baltimore, said campaign spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver.

She declined to say how much those workers are paid.

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