Ehrlich Hints at the Next Chapter of His Career

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 14, 2006; B09

Launching a political consulting firm with senior staff members is among the options that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is considering when he leaves office, he told reporters yesterday during a luncheon at which he also confirmed he is purchasing a house in Annapolis.

"This staff is very close," Ehrlich (R) said when asked about the possibility of setting up a consulting firm. "There's a lot of talent here, as everybody knows. Those discussions have taken place. . . . There are a lot of people who have a sense of unfinished business in Maryland and . . . there's a lot of people interested in doing something politically in the future."

Ehrlich, who was defeated by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) last month, said that after leaving office Jan. 17, he is also likely to hit the national speech circuit, engage in charity work and help a 2008 GOP presidential candidate raise money in Maryland.

Ehrlich, who four years ago became Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation, said there is interest nationally in what he accomplished in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2 to 1.

"There is a generally favorable view of our administration around the country, the view being that we were pretty successful in a fairly hostile environment, and there are some people who want to hear our story," Ehrlich said.

He spoke yesterday at a luncheon in the State House that was limited to reporters from newspapers that had endorsed his candidacy. Aides suggested that other reporters might have an opportunity to participate in a similar "exit interview" later.

Ehrlich was joined during the first half of the luncheon by Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R), who lost a U.S. Senate bid last month. Ehrlich's wife, Kendel, dropped in toward the end.

The first lady said keeping their son Drew, 7, in the same school played a large part in their decision to continue living in Annapolis. "We were married here, we met here," the governor added.

Ehrlich, a former congressman and state delegate from Baltimore County, said his wife picked their new home, which an aide confirmed is near the Annapolis mall.

The governor said he would not miss the perks of office. "We never allowed the trappings to trap us," he said.

As in recent radio interviews, Ehrlich said little about his political future, calling speculation that he might run for U.S. Senate in 2010 "grossly premature."

"The trend lines at present in our state are not very good for someone with my views and my values," Ehrlich said. "I've also said that you cannot put any options out of working order at this time. It's impossible to predict the future."

Ehrlich said two potential 2008 GOP presidential candidates have contacted him for help: former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Ehrlich said he has had more extensive discussions with Giuliani, who came to Maryland to campaign for him the Sunday before the gubernatorial election. Afterward, the two dined in the Little Italy section of Baltimore, Ehrlich said.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company