Slow and steady wins the race; or at least that’s the gist of the moral of the Aesop tale, “The Rabbit and the Hare.” In the upcoming gubernatorial race in Maryland, Republican Robert Ehrlich seems to be playing the part of the hare in his efforts to unseat incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley.
According to an October 14 Washington Post article, Ehrlich is running mainly because so many Republicans have urged him to do so. If this is truly his objective, he’s doing a good job. He has added some sparkle to what would otherwise be a routine campaign with his accusations that O’Malley, who booted him from the governor’s mansion four years ago, in cahoots with Maryland’s ruling Democratic establishment has hampered small business with too much regulation and has waged class warfare with tax increases for the wealthy.
This is low humor from the first Republican governor in a generation when he was elected in 2002, who during his tenure failed to do much for a deteriorating health system, a weak education system, and a crumbling infrastructure. Ehrlich has promised that he will lower the state sales tax from six percent to five, but he’s offered no specifics on how this is going to deal with the nearly 800 million budget shortfall Maryland is suffering.
In 2002, Maryland voters did what American voters on occasion do; they expressed their displeasure with how things were going by voting against the incumbent, and in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, put a Republican in Annapolis. While his small Republican base might be impressed with his aggressive rhetoric and constant repetition of the core Republican theme of lower taxes and more job creation, anyone who takes the time to study the record will be left with the impression that, while this might be good theater, it doesn’t translate into anything that will improve Maryland.
Beyond sloganeering, Ehrlich hasn’t given listeners any specifics. He’s good at heating up a crowd with hot-button issues, like his accusation that Ehrlich has supported a group that facilitates illegal immigration. But, he will need to go beyond accusations and vague promises. It would be helpful if he would detail both what he would do if he became governor, and why he didn’t do more when he was governor.
While I don’t think Ehrlich has a snowball’s chance of getting elected, this doesn’t mean that O’Malley can be complacent. When the two men campaigned in Prince George’s County on October 16, for instance, both faced an uphill battle. Home to more Democrats than any other constituency in the state, Prince George’s voters for the most part sat out the September primary election. Ehrlich did little or nothing for Prince George’s residents when he was in office, so his chances of garnering more than a smattering of votes from there in November are slim. At the same time, disaffected with the lack of attention the county gets from Annapolis, turnout in November for Ehrlich is also likely to be modest.
So, the notice is now given. Maryland experimented with a minority party governor, and it didn’t work. The voters will elect a Democrat, but they – we – will expect O’Malley, when he’s reelected in November, to do a better job.