Robert L. Ehrlich

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Robert L. Ehrlich

Robert Leroy Ehrlich, Jr. (born November 25, 1957) is an American politician and the 60th and current Governor of Maryland. A Republican, he became governor in 2003 after defeating Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a member of the Kennedy family, 51%-48% in the 2002 elections. Prior to serving as governor, Ehrlich was a U.S. congressman from Maryland's 2nd congressional district as well as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates.

Contents

Early life, career, and family

Ehrlich was born in the small community of Arbutus located southwest of Baltimore. After attending the Gilman School in Baltimore, he received degrees from Princeton University (1979) and Wake Forest University Law School (1982). After he obtained is degrees, Ehrlich went to work for the Ober, Kaler, Grimes and Shriver law firm of Baltimore. In November of 1986, Ehrlich won a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing parts of Baltimore County from 19871995.

Ehrlich married his wife Kendel in 1993. They have two sons, Drew Robert and Joshua Taylor.

Congress

In 1993, 2nd district congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley announced she would be vacating her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ehrlich decided to pursue the seat and announced his candidacy in November of the same year. His campaign involved promises of lower taxes and more support for the U.S. Military and senior citizens. He also promised aid for veterans, and better education for Maryland’s children.

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Governor Ehrlich speaking at the HealthierUS summit in late April 2004.

Ehrlich won the seat by a substantial margin, making himself one of the few leading Republican figures in the heavily-democratic state. Throughout his congressional tenure, he maintained most of his campaign promises and worked towards lowering one of the highest tax-rates in U.S. history and towards garnering further support for American troops abroad. He supported disabled Americans by introducing legislation aimed at helping those who had been disabled maintain employment, and supported harsher gun violence penalties.

While in Congress, Ehrlich served on the Energy Commerce Committee, where he further served on the subcommittees on health, telecommunications and the internet, and environment and hazardous materials; the Congressional Biotechnology Caucus, where he served as co-chairman; and the Congressional Steel Caucus. Ehrlich has been a staunch supporter of President George W. Bush ever since Bush’s election in 2000, and has supported several Bush initiatives including the No Child Left Behind Act and the recent tax cuts.

2002 Maryland Gubernatorial Election

In 2002, Governor Parris Glendening’s (D) second term was coming to a conclusion. While Glendening had been re-elected by a substantial margin in 1998, the final years of his term were plagued by rumors of corruption, a personal marital crisis, and a large state budget deficit. The rural areas of Maryland—largely republican—had long criticized Glendening for what they perceived as overzealous environmental regulations as well as ignoring their budgetary needs (bridges, highways, etc).

It was during this time that, on March 15, 2002, Ehrlich announced his candidacy for the governorship. He attacked Glendening’s record and his democratic opposition, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and, if elected, promised to increase school funding, balance the budget, and to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

During the election, Lt. Gov. Townsend was criticized for her choice of running mate; she picked retired Admiral Charles Larson, a novice politician who had switched parties only a few weeks before. Larson was also a white male, unlikely to boost minority turnout. In contrast, Ehrlich's running mate was Michael Steele, an African-American lawyer who had been chairman of the Republican Party of Maryland. The Townsend campaign was also hurt by the unpopularity of Governor Parris Glendening, who had implemented a partisan redistricting proposal that was overturned by Maryland's highest court. Townsend's popularity continued to fall when it was reported that much of her campaign money was given by out-of-state donors; Ehrlich remained quiet while the Lt. Governor's poll numbers declined.

Even though Maryland traditionally votes Democratic and had not elected a Republican governor in almost 40 years, Ehrlich won the race, gaining 51% of the vote to Townsend's 48% and Libertarian Spear Lancaster's 1%. Ehrlich became only the seventh Republican governor in state history, resulting in heavy criticism directed at Townsend from many party activists. In the end, most observers agreed she ran a weak campaign; specifically, they cited a lack of planning, claiming that she hastily-booked campaign stops in rural areas hostile to her and produced campaign literature of poor printing quality.

Governor of Maryland

Since becoming governor, Ehrlich has focused what he calls the Five Pillars of his Administration: fiscal responsibility, education, health and the environment, public safety, and commerce. The state budget deficit left by the Glendening administration has been decreased by $1.2 billion under Ehrlich’s guidance and has been balanced every year (as of 2005) since Ehrlich has been in office. He has also continually fought against tax increases proposed by the heavily-democratic Maryland General Assembly.

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NIH Director Elias Zerhouni talks with Ehrlich following a speech by President George W. Bush in Bethesda, Maryland.

In education, Ehrlich has endorsed the Thornton Plan, named after sponsor Dr. Alvin Thornton. The plan was proposed to drastically increase education funding in the state by $1.3 billion annually with the hopes of improving public education for students across Maryland, especially for schools in lower-income neighborhoods. Healthcare has also been a priority for Ehrlich, and has established a position in his cabinet based on providing affordable healthcare benefits to those who cannot afford them. Protecting the Chesapeake Bay has been Ehrlich’s primary environmental objective, and he has signed into law legislation which will reduce pollution and runoff in the Bay by millions of pounds annually.

Considering Maryland’s proximity to Washington, D.C., Ehrlich has continually tried to improve Maryland's readiness-level for another terrorist attack. He has appointed a cabinet-level Homeland Security advisor and has also signed into legislation laws which are aimed at reducing repeat offenders and eliminating the revolving-door nature of the state prison system. With employment, Maryland boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, and has seen an increase of 60,000 jobs since Ehrlich has taken office. He has also continually supported minority business owners and the hi-tech industry.

Slot machines controversy

In light of the budget deficit left by Glendening and Ehrlich’s staunch opposition to raising taxes, slot machines have been pursued by Ehrlich has a means for raising revenue for the state. Ehrlich initially met with little success on the issue, and the House of Delegates continually voted down legislation, but in early 2005, both the House of Delegates and the State Senate passed different sets of legislation allowing slot machines. The bills varied too much for compromise, though, and a compromise could not be reached by the end of the legislative session.

Ehrlich cited his reasons for needing slot machines in Maryland by examining the surrounding states of West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania, all of which have slot machines legalized. He claimed that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost to those states that could be kept in Maryland. Most of the money that was expected to be generated from the slot machines was earmarked towards education.

State House speaker Michael E. Busch (D) has steadfastly opposed slot machines in Maryland, and has regularly clashed with State Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D) over the issue, dividing both chambers of the Assembly. The Democratic party of the state as a whole saw much infighting, and divisions within the party began to emerge.

Following the failure of the slots initiative, Ehrlich predicted that no further slots bills would be passed during the next legislative session, and that the issue will remain under the table until after the 2006 gubernatorial election. [1] (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/politics/bal-te.md.slots12apr12,1,7596683.story) Some legislators are trying to call a special session of the General Assembly just so the slots issue can be resolved. A referendum has also been discussed.

Sources

  • Maryland Archives gubernatorial biography. [2] (http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/08conoff/html/msa12125.html)
  • Maryland Archives general biography. [3] (http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/012100/012125/html/msa12125.html)

See also

External links


Preceded by:
Helen Delich Bentley
U.S. Congressman, Maryland 2nd District
1995—2003
Succeeded by:
Dutch Ruppersberger
Preceded by:
Parris N. Glendening
Governor of Maryland
2003—present
Succeeded by:
Incumbent

Template:End boxTemplate:Current U.S. governors

de:Robert L. Ehrlich fr:Robert Ehrlich Jr

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