1st GOP governor since 1966
Smith wins in Balto. Co.
`Welcome to history,' Ehrlich tells supporters
Townsend urges cooperation
All `will have a voice,' says future Lt. Gov. Steele
Author: SUN STAFF
Sarah Koenig and David Nitkin
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. won the governorship of Maryland yesterday, prying open the white-knuckled grip Democrats have held on the post since Spiro T. Agnew left office and reversing a 36-year losing streak for Republican gubernatorial candidates.
Ehrlich, who ran a campaign fueled by a gregarious personality and a theme of change, beat Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend by a clear if narrow margin, garnering most of his votes from suburban counties where Republicans have done well in the past.
By toppling a Kennedy in a state dominated by Democratic voters, Ehrlich's victory made good on the symbolism of his campaign: that a working-class kid could, against all odds, beat a privileged member of America's most storied political family.
"Welcome to history," said a beaming Ehrlich in a victory speech delivered
at midnight, adding that he received a congratulatory call from President
"The president is very excited," he said.
Despite running an aggressive campaign that relentlessly tried to map the philosophical chasm separating her from Ehrlich, Townsend suffered the fate of every Maryland lieutenant governor who has tried for the top job. She was unable to shake the tarnished legacy of her boss of eight years, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who is leaving office with dismal popularity ratings.
Townsend delivered her concession speech just before 11:30 p.m., thanking her supporters and urging them to join with Ehrlich "in doing what is right for Maryland."
"I hope that with the campaign over, with the charges and countercharges fading away, we will realize that the things that unite us are far more powerful than the things that divide us," she said.
Democrats gained elsewhere in the state, winning two of the nation's most competitive races for the House of Representatives in districts redrawn by Glendening to favor the party. In the 2nd District, Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger defeated former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley.
In the 8th District, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. bested incumbent U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella.
William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, cruised to re-election as state comptroller, winning a second term by defeating Republican Gene Zarwell by a margin of more than 2-to-1.
Four-term Democratic Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. easily defeated Republican Edwin MacVaugh.
And in the Baltimore County executive race, Democrat James T. Smith Jr. defeated Republican Douglas B. Riley.
When Ehrlich returns to Annapolis - he served in the House of Delegates for eight years - he will be greeted by a vastly altered General Assembly.
In a significant upset, Democratic House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. lost his Allegany County seat at the polls, although uncounted absentee ballots could change the result. Another senior Assembly member, Democratic state Sen. Walter M. Baker of Cecil County, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, was defeated by Republican E.J. Pipkin.
Meanwhile, though, the mood at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Baltimore last night was ecstatic. A crowd of about 2,000 Ehrlich supporters waited for results to come in at a banquet hall, where the Mood Swings Big Band altered rock 'n' roll standards to fit the event, such as "Go, Bobby, Go! Go!" to the tune of "Johnny B. Good."
"Governor-elect Ehrlich will have a government where everyone will have a voice," said Michael S. Steele, Ehrlich's running mate, who took the podium at the hotel about 11:45 p.m.
Steele becomes the first African-American elected to statewide office in Maryland. He is a former party chairman whose likeness appeared on life-size posters throughout African-American neighborhoods in Baltimore and elsewhere yesterday in an effort to enlist black support.
A few blocks away from the Ehrlich gathering last night, Townsend's daughters wept as they left the stage at the Wyndham Hotel after the concession speech, as did her avuncular chief of staff, Alan H. Fleischmann.
"I think that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did her very best," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. "I did all I could for her."
"We're going to win some. We might lose some. But that's OK," said Wayne Rogers, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Ehrlich's win means that the legalization of slot machines is sure to gain footing when the legislature meets in January. Ehrlich has promised to rejuvenate Maryland with gambling revenue that he says will be funneled to public schools.
Ehrlich gathered most of his support from the fast-growing suburban counties in central Maryland. In Harford County, for example, he won 74.2 percent of the vote, compared with 64.8 percent for Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in 1994, the last governor's race without an incumbent.
As expected, Townsend carried Baltimore and populous Montgomery and
Prince George's counties, known as the "Big Three" for Democratic candidates.
Turnout was moderate to heavy most of the morning and afternoon, although late afternoon rain might have slowed voting.
The governor's race featured a compelling story line about a local boy made good squaring off against a Kennedy, and so received national and international media attention. Until voting began, it was considered one of the closest contests in the nation.
Townsend, 51, is the eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. She is a two-term lieutenant governor who was trying to succeed Glendening.
Ehrlich, 44, a four-term congressman from Timonium, was vying to become the state's first Republican governor since Agnew was elected in 1966. The only child of a car salesman and a legal secretary, Ehrlich grew up in an Arbutus rowhouse and attended prestigious private schools thanks in large part to his football skills.
In some ways, the election was as much a referendum on the Glendening-Townsend administration as it was an endorsement of Ehrlich's vision - making his "It's time for a change" slogan particularly resonant.
"Even though I'm a registered Democrat, I voted for Ehrlich," said Donald A. Henricks, 69, of Severna Park. "We're getting too far in the hole with the state budget. I hope that he can straighten it out. I'm afraid with Townsend she'd raise taxes."
Townsend began her campaign by attempting to expand her appeal beyond traditional Democratic constituencies. She chose a former Republican as a running mate, retired Adm. Charles R. Larson, a Naval Academy superintendent, Pacific Fleet commander and member of the state university system's Board of Regents.
But that choice infuriated some African-American political leaders. Once polls showed that the race had tightened, Townsend spent much of the campaign trying to soothe wounds that never fully healed.
Ehrlich packaged himself as a moderate and effectively neutralized Townsend on several critical issues. He, like his opponent, backed a plan approved by the legislature to increase education funding by $1.3 billion. But Townsend also used the tactic, coming out in favor of building the Intercounty Connector highway in Montgomery, a priority for voters in the state's most populous county.
In the end, the race was as much about personality and broad themes as it was about policy.
Townsend portrayed herself as the big-hearted candidate with a passion for public service and a serious commitment to helping the state's neediest residents meet - in the words of a frequently mocked and eventually discarded campaign slogan - their "indispensable destiny."
Her platform included a plan for affordable prescription drugs for senior
citizens, increased access to health insurance, and more money for education.
Ehrlich cast himself as a vehicle for change, the man whose thrifty values and innate leadership would restore order to the state's fiscal books, burdened by a $1.7 billion budget shortfall.
Because of that shortfall, neither Townsend nor Ehrlich could legitimately promise extensive new programs, although both made a series of appeals to shore up interest groups. Townsend, for example, pledged $30 million in drug-treatment funds for Baltimore over the next four years. Ehrlich promised tax breaks and a new retirement home for veterans.
The perception among many voters that the governor's race was light on substance was bolstered by the fact that the candidates faced each other only once in a televised debate, which aired live on cable channels. Negotiations over a second debate dissolved in bickering.
That left the campaigns to reach most voters through expensive television advertising and direct mail pieces, most of which concentrated on ripping apart the other candidate. The spending shattered records.
Four years ago, Glendening and Sauerbrey spent about $13 million in their rematch of the 1994 race. This year's contest is expected to cost about $20 million - despite Maryland's relatively strict donation limits of $4,000 to a campaign and $10,000 to all candidates in a four-year cycle.
That doesn't account for money spent by the political parties on voter
mobilization and other efforts.
In speeches and commercials, Townsend sought to portray Ehrlich as an "extremist" whose politics did not match those of most Marylanders. She lambasted his votes to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and to rescind a federal ban on assault weapons.
Ehrlich effectively linked Townsend to the unpopular Glendening.
Neither candidate ran a textbook campaign.
Townsend relied heavily on a 32-page "blueprint" of what she would do if elected, a bland document that contains virtually no numbers and was read by few voters. When she slipped in the polls, she resisted calls to shake up her staff, staying with loyal aides who had followed her from the lieutenant governor's office to the campaign.
Ehrlich made significant missteps, in particular calling for the review of some of the state's tough gun laws when gun-control was barely a campaign issue. A few weeks later, the sniper shootings began, giving Townsend an opportunity to contrast her anti-gun stance with Ehrlich's record.
As the race stayed close, national attention intensified, with big-league players arriving to solidify support.
Former President Bill Clinton stopped in Maryland twice to campaign for Townsend, and Al Gore swept in as well.
But Republicans had plenty of firepower of their own. President Bush helped Ehrlich raise $1.8 million in a single event - setting a state record. Former New York
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani came this week for a final, rousing rally.
Sun staff writers Greg Garland, Athima Chansanchai, Andrea Siegel, Howard Libit and Tim Craig contributed to this report.
Close calls in gubernatorial races
The top five closest gubernatorial races in Maryland
1. 1994 Parris N. Glendening (D) .............. 708,094 ... 50.25%
Ellen R. Sauerbrey(R) ................... 702,101 ... 49.8 %
2. 1919 Albert C. Ritchie (D)....................... 112, 240 ... 50.7 %
Harry W. Nice (R) ........................... 112,075 ... 49.96%
3. 1934 Harry W. Nice (R)............................ 253,813 ... 50.6 %
Albert C. Ritchie (D)...................... 247,664 ... 49.4 %
4. 1911 Phillips Lee Goldsborough (R)..... 106,392 ... 50.7 %
Arthur Pue Gorman (D)................. 103,395 ... 49.3 %
4. 1915 Emerson C. Harrington (D)............ 119,317 ... 50.7 %
Ovington E. Weller (R).................. 116,136 ... 49.3 %
5. 1942 Herbert R. O'Conor (D).................. 198,488 ... 52.6 %
Theodore R. McKeldin (R).............. 179,204 ... 47.4 %
1. U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. works the crowd at his campaign party in Baltimore last night before learning of his victory.
2. Robert L Ehrlich Jr. and running mate Michael S. Steel share a moment at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore last night.
3. Ehrlich arrives at his polling place at Padonia Park Club in Cockeysville yesterday with his wife, Kendel, and his son, Drew.
4. Maryland gubernatorial results
1 & 2. GENE SWEENEY JR. : SUN STAFF
3. KIM HAIRSTON : SUN STAFF
4. SUN STAFF
PHOTO(S) / MAP(S)
Copyright (c) 2002 The Baltimore Sun Company
Record Number: 0F72E8FB06C2FA96