As Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has sharpened his rhetoric during weekly calls to various Maryland talk radio shows, he seems to be enjoying the chance to take some spirited jabs at the political left.

First there were his offhand musings about multiculturalism, which led to two weeks of news stories and talk radio chatter about political correctness, bilingual education and even a close look at his family's genealogy in the Baltimore Sun.

Then last week, just as everyone seemed to have exhausted the subject, Ehrlich (R) revived it while speaking with WBAL radio host Ron Smith, saying that he was not surprised by all the reaction, because "when you deal with multiculturalism, you're touching one of the sacred grounds for the left. One is abortion, one is gun control, and of course multiculturalism being the third."

This remark prompted a fast and furious response from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In a press release issued the next day, Jim Brady, White House press secretary under Ronald Reagan, said he was offended by the suggestion that gun control is a strictly liberal cause.

"I'd like to remind Gov. Ehrlich that President Reagan supported the Brady law, and he also supported the assault weapons ban with other extreme lefties like Barry Goldwater," Brady said. "His remarks are very troubling."

Ehrlich was traveling and did not have a response to Brady's retort. But he said in several earlier interviews that he welcomes repartee with his political adversaries, so long as it doesn't lead to name-calling and personal attacks.

"When you speak common sense that may not be politically correct, people may take offense," Ehrlich said. "Frankly, a lot of folks on the left are intolerant of a diversity of opinion."

Appealing to Pa. on Slots

Continued concerns about the fate of gambling in nearby Pennsylvania have some Maryland lawmakers taking matters into their own hands.

First, there was a fact-finding mission by Dels. Peter Franchot (D-Montgomery), Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore) and Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George's).

Now Anderson has penned an op-ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, urging Pennsylvania residents to rally behind a loose-knit band of anti-gambling activists trying to block legislation pending before lawmakers in Harrisburg.

"The question that we in Maryland and Pennsylvania should be asking ourselves is: What do slots or organized gambling say about our state? What message are we sending to future generations? Did Benjamin Franklin discover electricity to run video lottery terminals? Or would he rather have seen advances in biotechnology research and software technology or the growth in small minority-owned businesses?" Anderson wrote in the May 25 Inquirer.

Anderson notes that Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) joined the opposition to slots after seeing "a recent study that shows that African Americans are the predominant group that will patronize these palaces and that the drugs, the murders, the prostitution and broken homes that already plague the black community will grow worse."

So far, there's no sign that the lobbying effort is having an impact. Last week, Pennsylvania Sen. Vincent J. Fumo told reporters that a tentative plan for slots has been settled. It includes: licenses to install slots at four existing thoroughbred and harness racing tracks, two other tracks under construction and potentially two more tracks that have yet to win racing licenses; four or five licenses for stand-alone facilities with no ties to horse racing, including two in Philadelphia and one in Pittsburgh; and two licenses tied to hotels with year-round amenities and at least 275 overnight rooms.