O'Malley turns back Ehrlich's challenge

Former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. conceded the governor's race in a brief speech to his supporters at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.
By Aaron C. Davis and John Wagner
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 1:31 AM

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley trounced his Republican predecessor Tuesday, beating Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. by a wider margin than any state candidate had amassed in nearly 20 years, on a night when many other Democrats were toppled in a nationwide wave of anti-incumbent frustration.

In Virginia, U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Fairfax County was fighting to hold his seat against a challenge from Republican Keith Fimian - a conservative Oakton businessman he beat by 12 points just two years ago. With nearly all votes counted, Connolly led by only a few hundred votes and the contest appeared to be headed for a recount, which could delay a final result for at least a month.

Vincent Gray, having defeated incumbent Adrian Fenty in September's Democratic primary, easily won election as the District's sixth mayor.

And in Maryland's only close congressional contest, in the district covering the Eastern Shore and parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties, freshman Democrat Frank M. Kratovil Jr. lost a rematch to Republican state Sen. Andrew Harris.

Just before 11 p.m., O'Malley took the stage before supporters at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore and echoed his campaign theme: "In the toughest of times, against some of the greatest adversity our country has seen in a long, long time, the people of Maryland have decided once again that together, we move forward."

Supporters chanted "four more years, four more years" as O'Malley, surrounded by fellow Democrats and his wife and four children, basked in cheers and applause.

At 11:11 p.m., Ehrlich took the stage and conceded at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

"Tonight is at an end," said Ehrlich, flanked by his wife and family. "We wish him well. For us this is the close of the chapter. For us, it's not sad."

O'Malley's campaign said the governor had received no concession call from Ehrlich. Four years ago, Ehrlich did not call O'Malley until the day after the election.

Ehrlich's "primary mission was to talk about the future, and too often he talked about the past," said Richard Cross, a former Ehrlich aide who writes a political blog. "This year was about change, and he had to make a case for change. He wasn't able to do that."

State Attorney General Doug Gansler, a Democrat, said Ehrlich failed to "offer a solution or an alternative that got any traction. He had to spend an awful lot of time raising money, and wasn't able to get out whatever message he might be trying to convey."

A lopsided fundraising advantage, a disciplined campaign and a left-leaning electorate that remained receptive to a Democratic message helped O'Malley emerge as the more trusted candidate on major issues such as job creation, the economy and the performance of the state's public schools.

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