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Past, present governors make a splash at Plunge

Plunge.jpgThe 14th annual Polar Bear Plunge was ground zero Saturday in Maryland's still-not-official grudge match of a governor's race between former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and current Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

Ehrlich hosted his weekly radio show Saturday morning from Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel County, the site of the carnival-like event sponsored by the Maryland State Police to benefit the Special Olympics.

O'Malley arrived shortly before the 1 p.m. plunge, just in time to address the crowd before joining the thousands who scampered down the beach into the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. With the temperature hovering around 20 and a steady snow falling, this year's event was not for the timid.

Ehrlich, who is not expected to announce whether he's running again for governor for several more weeks, was hardly shy about criticizing O'Malley and other Democrats during his radio broadcast on WBAL.

Ehrlich said the fiscal year 2011 budget that O'Malley unveiled this month relied on "smoke and mirrors" and amounted to "terrible budgeting" because it uses federal stimulus dollars to pay for some ongoing operating expenses.

"That's been my major problem here," Ehrlich said during the split broadcast, in which his wife and co-host, Kendel, remained stationed in the warmth of WBAL's Baltimore studios.

Ehrlich was also critical of O'Malley's use of furloughs, saying the unpaid leave is demoralizing for state workers. "Furloughs are never really worth it," the former governor said.

And Ehrlich warned, as he has before, of "a gigantic tax increase" being planned by Democrats in Annapolis after this fall's election. On Saturday, Ehrlich said it would be "double the size" of a $1.4 billion increase passed in 2007.

O'Malley has not ruled out additional tax increases after the economy stabilizes but has said he would like to avoid such measures. Legislative leaders have said a major tax increase is not on the horizon.

O'Malley and two of his children were greeted upon arrival Saturday afternoon by Terrence B. Sheridan, the state police superintendent, who ushered the governor to a stage overlooking the beach.

"This is perfect weather, isn't it?" O'Malley said, before losing his sweat pants and heading toward the water.

By John Wagner  |  January 30, 2010; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , John Wagner  
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