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Senate bid 'in the mix,' Ehrlich tells business audience

Ehrlich Pikesville.jpgAll indications are that former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is planning to run for governor again, with an announcement now appearing more likely in early April than late March.

But that didn't stop Ehrlich from throwing an audience in Pikesville -- and a small contingent of journalists -- for a loop Tuesday morning by suggesting he might shoot for U.S. Senate instead.

"It's in the mix," Ehrlich said in response to a question about whether he might challenge Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) this year instead of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

The setting was a breakfast sponsored by the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce in a hotel conference room, where Ehrlich delivered an updated version of a speech that he delivered countless times during his four years as governor.

His message: that the business community has to be far more aggressive in lobbying the Maryland General Assembly if it wants better outcomes in Annapolis. As Ehrlich often put it while governor, business needs to "get dangerous" with the legislature.

His talk on Tuesday included several new examples of what Ehrlich dubbed "gratuitous discretionary decisions" made by the legislature that were bad for business.

Among them: the $1.4 billion package of tax increases passed in 2007, including the computer services tax, which Ehrlich told his audience of about 50 people was "the worst idea ever."

He was also critical of the 2008 passage of Maryland's so-called "millionaires' tax" and of the fact that "it's 2010, and there's not one legal slot machine operating in the state of Maryland."

During his remarks, Ehrlich did not once mention O'Malley by name, and he later suggested to a handful of reporters that he avoided doing so deliberately.

"This was not a candidate speech," Ehrlich said. "I didn't want this to devolve into an Ehrlich-O'Malley deal this morning."

In both the speech and his comments to reporters, Ehrlich was coy about his political plans, acknowledging that he was "ducking" questions about running for governor. When a TV reporter asked him directly about whether he is running, he said "no comment."

Ehrlich was a little more chatty about the Senate scenario, saying that many people had suggested he run following the upset win by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Several of Ehrlich's associates said afterward that this is not a scenario that the former governor is actively contemplating.

Asked by a reporter if there was a scenario where he would not run for governor, Ehrlich paused for awhile, and then offered: "Clearly, we're moving in a direction that this time a year ago I would not have predicted." (In a previous interview, Ehrlich said he was telling people a year ago that he was not likely to run for governor.)

Ehrlich began his speech by telling his audience what he wanted "the takeaway" to be: "We have one big problem, and it's Annapolis."

By John Wagner  |  March 16, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , John Wagner  
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Your singing to the choir. Now try to convince me.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 16, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

When Ehrlich was governor he could not tell if it was day or night out because he had his head shoved so far up THE WORST PRESIDENTS
AZZ in the history of America.
If Erhlich runs and wins the state of Maryland and it's citizens LOOSE!

Hey Ehrlich what Maryland firm wanted the ex-governor working for them?

Only a firm in North Carolina wanted you.
Stay in NC and run and ruin their state don't come back to Maryland and hurt us more.

Posted by: 1-20-09 | March 16, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"Clearly, we're moving in a direction that this time a year ago I would not have predicted." (In a previous interview, Ehrlich said he was telling people a year ago that he was not likely to run for governor.)

Who is he kidding- his people where all over Lincoln Day Dinners last year saying he would run for Governor.

Posted by: agwilson1399 | March 17, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

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