O'Malley, Ehrlich converge on Prince George's in Md. governor's race

By John Wagner and Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 16, 2010; 9:34 PM

Maryland's two leading gubernatorial candidates spent a blustery Saturday afternoon in Prince George's County, a heavily Democratic jurisdiction where turnout in less than three weeks will be key to Gov. Martin O'Malley's reelection chances.

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who has spent little time campaigning in the majority-African American county, drew about 200 people to a rally where he sought to build on his energetic performance in last week's debate at The Washington Post.

"Anybody see a debate the other day?" Ehrlich asked the crowd at Lake Presidential Golf Club in Upper Marlboro before arguing that his effort to lure high-end retailers was among the reasons that his tenure was better than O'Malley's for Prince George's.

"We produced, big time," Ehrlich said. "It's not about black and white, but it's about green."

Ehrlich said that the county remains "a tough area for a Republican" but that he wants to improve on 2002, when he won 23 percent of Prince George's vote in becoming Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation.

The stakes for Democrat O'Malley are much higher in Prince George's. The county is home to more Democrats than any other Maryland jurisdiction - 401,125 as of last month - but experienced unusually low turnout in last month's primaries.

As part of his efforts to energize his party's base, O'Malley was joined by both Prince George's outgoing county executive, Jack B. Johnson (D), and its presumptive incoming executive, Rushern L. Baker III (D).

Standing in front of his campaign's bright-green RV, O'Malley and Baker gave a pep talk to dozens of union workers and college students preparing to go door-to-door for the governor in Oxon Hill.

"Don't be fooled. We've got to run like we're 10 points behind," Baker said.

O'Malley criticized Ehrlich for providing less money for school construction during his tenure and fewer dollars to shore up the county's long-troubled hospital system.

"We are not walking away from that fight," O'Malley said, before fueling up with a bacon cheeseburger and heading to the Allentown Boys and Girls Club homecoming football game, where Johnson joined him.

Even some Democrats who posed for photos with O'Malley said there was room for improvement.

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