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Ehrlich: The Next Four Years

With the campaign sure to focus on what Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich has or hasn't accomplished in his four years as governor, Ehrlich took the opportunity yesterday to outline what he would focus on if elected to another four years.

Speaking at an annual gathering of county leaders in Ocean City, the Republican governor said he wanted to invest heavily in the construction of schools, draft plans for responsible development in Maryland's fast-growing suburbs and find ways to increase affordable housing.

"Our nurses, lab technicians, our policemen and firemen need to be able to live in or near the communities where they work," Ehrlich said. "Workforce housing" will be "a major, major issue," he said.

The speech, which led off with what the governor described as the most significant achievements of his term, helps set the stage for his bid for reelection this fall. Ehrlich, who was the first Republican elected governor in Maryland in a generation, will face a well-funded challenger in Democrat Martin O'Malley, the mayor of Baltimore who is ahead of Ehrlich in polls.

To date, Ehrlich's campaign ads have focused largely on the parochial question of how best to improve Baltimore's school system. His speech yesterday, though, never mentioned the subject. And while it was short on details, it was far broader in scope.

The topics ranged from an initiative he launched last year to increase monitoring of child sex offenders, to his success in gaining long-sought federal approval to build the intercounty connector highway to provide a new east-west route across the Washington suburbs.

But Ehrlich told members of the Maryland Association of Counties that, if elected, much of his attention would be on the rapid growth that's coming, in part, as a result of a federal base realignment that will bring thousands of new jobs to Fort Meade and the surrounding area.

"Yesterday I was asked what is the single most daunting challenge" facing the state, he said. "It is dealing with our success. We're going to have jobs paying $90,000 a year coming here in the thousands."

Matthew Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  August 20, 2006; 9:40 AM ET
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