Wednesday, September 6, 2006

With the election of Robert Ehrlich as governor and Michael Steele as lieutenant governor four years ago, Maryland took a major step towards becoming a two-party state. With the exception of the very liberal Republican Sen. Charles Mathias, no Republican had been elected statewide in Maryland between 1970 and the election of Messrs. Ehrlich and Steele in 2002. On Tuesday, Maryland Republicans will formally nominate Mr. Ehrlich for re-election as governor and Mr. Steele for U.S. Senate.

We urge a vote for both men on Tuesday and on November 7. Messrs. Ehrlich and Steele support a brand of moderate conservatism that offers a refreshing contrast to the liberal, “yellow dog Democrat” orthodoxy that has dominated Maryland politics since the early 1970s, and that is represented by Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

But Mr. Ehrlich is not just running against Mr. O’Malley; his re-election campaign is also a campaign against Mr. O’Malley’s staunchest political allies — in particular Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch. Under their leadership, the General Assembly has lurched far to the left, becoming one of the most irresponsible state legislatures in the nation. To his great credit, Mr. Ehrlich has fought tenaciously against the worst tendencies of the General Assembly. In some cases, he has succeeded: Earlier this year, Mr. Ehrlich and other advocates of increased penalties for sex offenders were successful in wresting a reform bill out of the House Judiciary Committee where it was languishing and getting it enacted into law.

But in a greater number of cases, the General Assembly has successfully mustered the votes necessary to override the governor’s vetoes of atrocious legislation. A partial list includes: a medical malpractice “reform” bill that included a tax on health maintenance organizations; a discriminatory, punitive tax against Wal-Mart pushed by organized labor and Wal-Mart competitors like Giant Food; a minimum-wage increase that will destroy jobs for the most unskilled workers; an ill-considered bill dealing with Baltimore Gas and Electric Corp. rates; and an early-voting scheme that lacked meaningful safeguards against election fraud, which the courts had the good sense to strike down.

Another irresponsible veto override deserves special mention: In order to spare Mr. O’Malley the embarrassment of a state takeover of failing Baltimore schools pursuant to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the General Assembly passed legislation ensuring that the bureaucrats (and by extension, the teachers unions) who helped make the city school system such a mess remain in charge.

Without electing more Republicans (and for that matter, Democrats who are not beholden to the Busch-Miller leadership in the General Assembly), the next four years could be a dreary reprise of the last four years, as Mr. Ehrlich does the right thing and the legislature does its best to undermine him. The Washington Times is proud to endorse the re-election of Gov. Robert Ehrlich — together with a responsible General Assembly willing to cooperate with him.

In the U.S. Senate race, polls indicate that there are three serious candidates to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes a staunch liberal. On the Democratic side, the favorite is Rep. Ben Cardin, a quiet, cerebral liberal in the mold of Mr. Sarbanes. On Iraq — which is arguably the central issue in the national fall campaign — Mr. Cardin boasts of his opposition to the war that removed Saddam Hussein from power. His most formidable opponent, former Rep. and NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume, attacks Mr. Cardin from the far left, hitting him hard for voting to authorize money to support the troops in Iraq. Both men are tax-and-spend liberals whose voting records would be indistinguishable from those of Mr. Sarbanes, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Whether the issue is federal judgeships, the war or taxes, they would be virtually certain to vote with Sen. Harry Reid.

Mr. Steele, by contrast, states that in Iraq “any politician out there talking about timetables and timelines is playing into the hands of our enemies who have an enormous capacity to wait.” He told the Baltimore Sun that “it would be a disaster to cut and run, as it would destroy our credibility in the region for at least a generation.” The lieutenant governor is also pro-life, a supporter of tax cuts to spur economic growth and an advocate of health savings accounts. To be certain, there are issues on which we part company with Mr. Steele — for example, his support for racial preferences and his opposition to the death penalty. But the reality is that historically Maryland has been a blue state that usually elects liberal Democrats; by contrast, Mr. Steele, unlike Messrs. Cardin and Mfume, will likely vote with conservatives on some of the critical issues of the day.

The Washington Times is proud to endorse Lt. Gov. Michael Steele for U.S. Senate.

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