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The Political Theater

Governor

The topic was reducing electricity rates for Maryland customers. But each of Maryland's candidates for governor chose a setting yesterday that helped convey the message they wanted to deliver.

Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. chose the imposing governor's mansion in Annapolis, his manicured front lawn with his wife and lieutenant governor standing by, to announced a tentative deal with Maryland's biggest electric company. BGE officials watched Ehrlich's announcement from a sunny patch of grass by the Government House fence.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat vying for Ehrlich's job, picked the front lawn of an ordinary guy--named Butch, no less--to present his own plan for rate relief and his disdain for Ehrlich's dealing with industry officials.

And Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, the other major Democratic candidate, stood outside the Public Service Commission hearing in Baltimore to deliver his message that the regulatlry agency was shutting the consumer out of the progress and that the governor of "doing a dance with industry executives ..... behind closed doors."

The doors actually opened for Duncan to testify before the PSC on a Pepco plan for rate relief, but the meeting adjourned before Duncan got inside.

Duncan said he didn't trust Ehrlich or O'Malley to address the "out-of-whack" rates, because both have taken thousands in campaign contribution from BGE executives.

With the 2006 governor's race ramping up, O'Malley's choice of venue was hardly happenstance. One of the keys to Ehrlich's 2002 victory was running up large margins in swing jurisdictions such as Baltimore County, where he grew up and where blue-collar Democrats can be persuaded to vote Republican

O'Malley stood at a podium in the front lawn of Butch Henry, a Dundalk maintenance technician who told reporters that "like my neighbors, I'm a hard-working guy just trying to make ends meet."

Henry, 61, said he found the prospect of a 72 percent rate increase "totally, absolutely, positively distressing" and mocked Ehrlich's claim several weeks ago that he was a "neutral broker" in negotiations with BGE. "He ain't neutral," Henry said.

O'Malley also voiced support for a series of tax credits and other incentives that he said would promote energy efficiency and curb consumers' utility costs in the future. And he announced several measures designed to prevent what he characterized as a "revolving door" between energy companies and the state officials who regulate them.

Before Ehrlich's 5 p.m. announcement, there were signs yesterday that his office was scrambling to tidy.

Just two hours beforehand, Ehrlich was asked during an appearance at Towson University if he could offer a preview of the deal to a class he was addressing.

"I can' give you the details," he said, "because as we speak a few of the last details are being worked out."

Ehrlich's chief of staff, Chip DiPaula Jr., a Towson graduate who has attended Ehrlich's previous appearances before the class, was notably absent yesterday afternoon. DiPaula has been a central figure in the negotiations with BGE.

John Wagner and Matt Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  April 20, 2006; 10:51 PM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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Comments

Curious that this article--on a substantive matter that could positively devastate the general public well before election day does not attract the chatter that the 'horse race' political junkie pieces do! No wonder the public is so wary of pols and political junkies!

The solution to the electric rate mess ought to be obvious. Since 'deregulation' fad took hold all we have experienced nationally is higher prices and the proliferation of Enron-type thievery. (Recall that Enron was the poster child for the deregulation propaganda of yore.)

No half measures or nibbling at the edges will solve anything. I am a bit bothered that O'Malley, who ought to know better, is pulling his punches. I would expect Ehrlich to BS.

RE-REGULATE ELECTRICITY!!!

I heard a rumor that Duncan called for Re-Regulation. I hope it is true.

Posted by: LaRoucheGuy | April 28, 2006 7:08 PM | Report abuse

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