Ehrlich Says He's Fed Up With Rude Democrats

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) unleashed a searing attack on the Democrat-controlled General Assembly yesterday, telling a group of business leaders that some legislators have been so disrespectful of him that it's time to vote them out of office.

The tone of Ehrlich's remarks, which came during a question-and-answer session, was in marked contrast to his scripted State of the State address two weeks ago. Then, he pledged to cooperate with Democrats and help end "Capitol Hill-style" politics.

Ehrlich was less than conciliatory yesterday at a Montgomery County event. He complained that the legislature overrode a record number of vetoes this year and urged business leaders to help him get political payback in the November elections.

"Some of these votes are meant to embarrass me and the administration," said Ehrlich, a former congressman from Baltimore County who in 2002 became Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation. "I didn't leave Capitol Hill to be needlessly embarrassed. . . . I am tired of it. I am tired of it."

Ehrlich, who is preparing a reelection strategy in part based on the state's strong economy, urged business leaders to withhold financial backing for candidates who have not supported his administration's policies.

"The era of [lawmakers] shaking you down for checks and then voting against your interests" is over, Ehrlich said at a lunch sponsored by the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the Tech Council of Maryland. "Look at how people vote and act accordingly."

Ehrlich made his comments near the end of the event, after he was asked if there was anything else he wanted to say. The governor's unscripted remarks resembled his 2005 State of the State address, in which he strayed from a prepared text and spent six minutes lecturing legislators about respect.

Several Democratic legislators who attended yesterday's event were surprised by Ehrlich's comments.

"He's taking a lot of things personally," said Del. Joan F. Stern (Montgomery).

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert) wasn't at the event, but he said in an interview that he suspects Ehrlich is growing desperate because polls show he faces a tough election matchup against one of his possible Democratic opponents, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley or Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

"He talks tough when he talks to conservative businessmen who write checks, but when he talks to educators, health care workers or environmentalists, he talks about conciliation," Miller said. "He could have been having a bad day."

Duncan, who attended the speech, called it "a campaign-style trashing of the General Assembly."

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