Ehrlich Picks Cabinet Member Cox for Ticket

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s running mate, Kristen Cox, who is blind, is seeking her first elective office.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s running mate, Kristen Cox, who is blind, is seeking her first elective office. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Mary Otto and Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 30, 2006

Kristen Cox, wearing a pink suit and carrying a white cane, made her formal debut in electoral politics yesterday. Standing on the City Dock in Annapolis, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. introduced her as Maryland's "next lieutenant governor."

"Good morning!" declared Cox, her voice bearing a slight twang of Utah, where she was raised. She introduced her two sons -- Tanner, 10, and baby Riley -- and her husband, Randy, who she said "will be doing a lot more diaper changing" in coming months.

But then, true to her style, Cox, 36, quickly got down to business. She shifted the subject to what she said was her belief in government's power to remove obstacles to full inclusion for the disabled in schools and the workplace, a philosophy she said the governor shares.

"When I stepped back and looked at Governor Ehrlich's record, it made it clear I had to step up and run as lieutenant governor," she said.

Although she has never run for office, Cox is no stranger to the halls of power. Ehrlich (R) has often recounted the story of meeting her when he was serving in Congress and Cox, who is blind, was working as a lobbyist for the National Federation of the Blind. Ehrlich's travel records show that the federation sponsored a one-day trip to Atlanta for him in July 2000.

Again yesterday, the governor recalled that he was impressed by Cox's stamina and focus.

"When Kris zeroes in on a target, she never misses," he said. "She's been around."

"In a good way," Cox quickly added.

When Ehrlich created a Cabinet-level position two years ago to address the needs of disabled Marylanders, he made Cox the department's first secretary.

His decision to name her his running mate was met with praise and a few questions from those in the disabilities community.

"She's a phenomenal lady, extremely intelligent, and she knows how government works," said Craig Borne, who is a lawyer with the state Department of Transportation and is blind. He said he worked with Cox on the state paratransit system and was struck by her grasp of issues.

"She gets it and gets it quickly," said Borne, a Republican running for the state Senate in Baltimore County. "She is not afraid to ask the hard questions."

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