A quiet day for friends and family

Agenda: After a hectic night, 'low key' is the order of the day for Maryland's governor-elect, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

By Sarah Koenig
Sun Staff

November 7, 2002

On his first day as Maryland's governor-elect, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. got 4 1/2 hours' sleep and did not wear a tie.

With the exception of a noon news conference, the candidate who never seemed to meet a reporter he didn't like spent the rest of the day shunning the limelight.

His agenda, in fact, had as much in common with Mr. Suburban Dad as it did with Mr. Governor: He picked up his son, Drew, from a friend's house, hung out with some Princeton buddies
in town for the election, and ate a take-out dinner of rotisserie chicken with his staff at his Towson campaign headquarters.

Those expecting champagne brunches or massive "Thank you, Maryland" sign waves or one-on-one talk show sit-downs, then, were sorely disappointed.

"We didn't do sexy today," said Michael S. Steele, Ehrlich's running mate, who spent much of the day with him. "It was a very low-key day."

If Ehrlich's debut as Maryland's new chief executive had had a theatrical adviser, "low-key" might have been his direction.

Ehrlich's day began about 9:30 a.m., when he awoke to Steele's knock on the door of his 14th-floor suite at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Baltimore.

(He and his wife, Kendel, had gone to bed about 5 a.m. Ehrlich had meant to tell her that he knew he was going to win the election on the night of the September debate, but they fell
asleep before he could remember what he wanted to say.)

At 10:30, Ehrlich held a meeting with Steele, who will chair his transition team; Steven L. Kreseski, his current and future chief of staff; the former secretary of Maryland's Department of
Business and Economic Development, James T. Brady, who will oversee the transition team's day-to-day-operations; and a couple of lawyers.

They talked about how they were going to proceed in the coming days and weeks - and what they were going to tell the throng of reporters waiting, bleary-eyed, downstairs.

Then Ehrlich got a phone call from the sitting governor. They talked budget for a bit, and then the conversation got personal.

"I told him that Jennifer wants to talk to his wife, Kendel, and offer whatever assistance she can with transition to Government House," Gov. Parris N. Glendening recounted.

"I told him I was watching Drew with interest, because when I first ran for county executive, my son, Raymond, was almost exactly the same age. I have all these videos and pictures of
Raymond at rallies and other campaign events.

"I did suggest to him that in the nursery, Jennifer's mom had painted a nice Winnie the Pooh up on the wall. Before we paint it back, they might want to look at it and see if they want to
leave it," Glendening said. "I guess Drew will make the decision whether the bear stays."

At noon, Ehrlich was ushered into a hotel conference room under protection of the governor-elect's security detail.

The state troopers had discreetly appeared in the hotel about 11 p.m. Tuesday, having been informed of Ehrlich's win. "That's when I knew it was over," said Ehrlich spokesman Paul E.
Schurick, beaming.

Wearing cream-colored slacks, a white shirt and a gray sport coat, Ehrlich addressed a room full of television cameras, photographers and reporters.

"Welcome to Maryland history, Day 2," he said. He spoke casually, without notes. He recycled a few jokes about his son and his wife, played a few lines off of his friends ("Business is
our middle name, right Jim?" he said, nodding to Brady), and took questions.

By about 1:30 p.m., as hotel maids cleaned the last remnants of Tuesday night's celebration off the 14th floor - crumpled "Ehrlich-Steele" stickers and a few cigarette butts - Ehrlich went
to a suite to say goodbye to his 14 friends from Princeton, a couple of whom had come from as far as California to witness his victory.

Apparently they weren't all football jocks.

"He actually has some smart friends from Princeton," Kreseski said.

Ehrlich's next stop was to pick up Drew, who had stayed with a family friend for the night, and take him home. He returned a few of the dozens of congratulatory phone calls he had
received (including one from former Rep. Jack Kemp) and then changed into a pair of jeans before heading to his campaign headquarters in Towson, where they began answering the
phone: "Governor-Elect Ehrlich's office, can I help you?"

The office, like his Timonium home, was bursting with flower arrangements and fruit baskets and phone messages from well-wishers.

With his exhausted staff gathered around, Ehrlich thanked them for everything they'd done during the campaign, and then they ate the dinner that had been ordered in: soup, chicken,

Evidently his plans for later in the evening, said spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver, consisted of lying on his bed and experiencing darkness.

"I think he's going to crash like the rest of us," she said.

And tomorrow?

Tomorrow, she said, he's going to pack in the afternoon and head across the Bay Bridge to Ocean City, where he and Kendel plan to play golf with abandon.

Sun staff writer Howard Libit contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun