In the aftermath of his electoral defeat, Republic Governor Bob Ehrlich of Maryland sounded like a man who was finished with politics. After a bitter contest between Ehrlich and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, Ehrlich’s Jack Abramoff conntections as well as his battles with the state legislature and the Baltimore Sun finally came back to bite him.
He told radio listeners that the already blue state of Maryland was trending bluer and away from him. “I’ve had the ride of my life,” Ehrlich said to supporters after the election.
His intention not to run again was clear to everyone. He said he “got fired” and that the picture for him and the state GOP was bleak. Not only did Republicans lose the gubernatorial, but contrary to predictions about how well Michael Steele would perform in the Senate Race, he actually took a drubbing, losing to Congressman Ben Cardin by more than ten points. The party also lost ground in the legislature and saw their influence in powerful Montgomery County all but extinguished.
“It was a wipeout,” said Gail Ewing, a former Democratic council member in Montgomery. “I am stunned. Everyone I know is stunned that we have no Republicans left.”
Ehrlich’s thoughts about his own political future were surely informed by the setbacks of his entire state party. But it was Ehrlich’s wife Kendel who convinced him to run for Governor the first time, and she was quoted Sunday as saying, “I know that if I have anything to do with it, public service is not over for Bob Ehrlich.”
For weeks now, it’s been rumored that Ehrlich would be helping to manage Rudy Giuliani’s presidential run. But in his last public appearance as governor, Ehrlich hinted that he’s not done in Maryland after all, and his wife’s sentiments are getting to him.
“Competitors compete always,” the former football player and sports fan said. “I’m going to ask you to compete with me in order to save this state.”
Ehrlich didn’t say what office he was considering running for, though in four years, in addition to the gubernatorial, there may well be an open senate seat in Maryland.
In the meantime, the outgoing governor spent his time granting pardons. During his term, he reviewed 510 requests for clemency, and approved 249 of them. The oldest was a sixty-two year old man convicted of shoplifting in 1963.
As Governor, Ehrlich was unable to implement the slots program he ran on the first term, and unable to bury his acrimony with the Baltimore Sun which resulted in several First Amendment lawsuits. After the election, Ehrlich also saw the financial prosperity he boasted of slip away as the budget office announced that Maryland’s projected surplus was a phantom and that the incoming governor would face massive budget problems.