The good news for Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is that he is mentioned prominently in the new issue of GQ magazine and he is described as "almost ridiculously handsome."

The bad news is that the mention comes in an article that portrays him as having an almost ridiculously cozy relationship with Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest independent owners of television stations in the United States.

Much of what the piece says about Ehrlich (R) has been reported previously in some form, but Democrats still gleefully steered reporters to the magazine last week.

The GQ article recounts Ehrlich's efforts, as a member of Congress, to lobby the Federal Communications Commission to allow Sinclair, which began with a single station in Baltimore, to expand its ownership into new markets.

It recounts the right-leaning media company lending Ehrlich a helicopter while he was running for governor in 2002. And it rehashes an arrangement between Fox television's Baltimore affiliate, which is owned by Sinclair, to produce public service ads featuring Ehrlich as governor at no cost -- on the condition that the state purchase $60,000 worth of time on the station to air them.

Perhaps most revealing are comments attributed to former Sinclair reporter Jon Lieberman regarding its coverage of Ehrlich's gubernatorial opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D).

"All of our resources were used to go after her," Lieberman is quoted as saying. Sinclair chief executive David D. Smith "became convinced she fell off a horse as a child and had brain damage. I don't know where he came up with that. . . . He sits in his office and thinks of these things."

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell dismissed the piece as "just lazy, sloppy, tabloid journalism" and said Ehrlich's office was never contacted to respond.

"The governor has not seen the story, and it's not worth any of us wasting a second of his time with it."

Wrangling Over Baltimore Schools

The political fallout of the state school board's decision to reject a Baltimore reform plan continued to unfold yesterday.

Earlier in the week, aides to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), who is running for governor next year, suggested that politics may have been behind the decision. O'Malley, meanwhile called the state board's solution -- hiring an outside monitor to help rewrite the plan -- a waste of money.

In appearances yesterday on Baltimore's WBAL radio, both Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick dismissed talk of political motivations.

Grasmick noted that Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) is also running for governor and said the Montgomery schools had submitted an "outstanding" plan that the board approved.

"It's not a political issue," Ehrlich said during a later appearance. "It's not because O'Malley's running the city."

Ehrlich said the performance of Baltimore schools, in which a majority of students are black, is so bad that "we are sentencing [students] to underemployment and in some cases unemployment. . . . This is the soft bigotry of no expectations."

O'Malley has limited control of city schools as mayor but on the campaign trail often cites progress on test scores by students in earlier grades.

Steele on Jefferson

When the overwhelmingly Democratic members of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators sat down to lunch Thursday at their national convention in the District, there was a bit of counter programming on the menu.

They were welcomed by Carol Schwartz, the only Republican on the D.C. City Council, and their luncheon speaker was Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Steele joked about the trials of being "an African American, Roman Catholic, Republican lieutenant governor" and delivered a message of economic empowerment.

But first he got the group's attention as he reflected on life in Annapolis, where he pointed out that slaves were once sold at the waterfront market and he now occupies an office that Thomas Jefferson used during the brief time that Maryland's capital also doubled as the nation's capital.

Steele said he sometimes thinks about Jefferson looking down and wondering, "How the heck did a brother end up in my office?"

"Then it came to me," Steele said. "Sally Hemming knows."

More Than an Appendage

Maryland Senate candidate Kweise Mfume (D), a former congressman and head of the national NAACP, issued a "clarification" last week after he referred to Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) as "an appendage to the governor" during a political forum.

"While I believe that most lieutenant governors, when of the same party, are appendages or extensions of the sitting governor that they serve with, I understand how such a characterization can be misconstrued and interpreted in a negative way," Mfume said in a statement. "For the record, and without having been asked, I want to make it clear that in my opinion, the lieutenant governor has been more than 'just an appendage' to Gov. Bob Ehrlich."

We hope that's clear.

Doug Who?

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) seems to be struggling for respect in some quarters these days. The latest slight comes in a fundraising solicitation from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

Ehrlich urges his supporters to contribute money before the end of the year because, by law, he is banned from making solicitations during the 90-day legislative session that starts Jan. 11.

The ban does not apply to Ehrlich's Democratic rivals, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Duncan -- who is referred to in the Ehrlich letter as "Doug Duncun."