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Md. campaigns for governor clash over environment

Essex presser.jpgMaryland's two leading gubernatorial candidates engaged in a brawl over their environmental credentials Wednesday as former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) visited a riverside bar in eastern Baltimore County.

Ehrlich's visit to Essex was designed to highlight the most heralded environmental initiative of his tenure -- the so-called "flush tax," passed in 2004 -- that is helping fund upgrades to sewer and septic systems across the state.

The two campaigns started sparring even before Ehrlich arrived at Brewer's Landing Bar and Grill on the banks of the Black River. That was largely due to a media advisory issued by Ehrlich's campaign indicating that he would take aim at O'Malley for diverting $155 million this year intended for the upgrades to help balance the state's general fund budget.

Essex audience.jpgDuring his actual remarks, Ehrlich barely made mention of that charge and -- completely unprompted -- acknowledged that O'Malley had replaced the money with funds from the state's capital budget (or, as Ehrlich put it, "he's replaced the dollars with debt and all that.")

Most of Ehrlich's remarks, in fact, focused on the impact of what he called "this one historic act" and how happy he was to be in a part of the state that has long been a political stronghold of his. (A truly stunning number of Ehrlich yard signs on the roads leading to the event were testament to that.)

"This bill really counts every day," Ehrlich said of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act. The event was held near the Back River Treatment Plant, among those that has benefited from the act's funding.

Before Ehrlich's event had ended, the O'Malley campaign issued a statement calling the former governor "clearly out of touch" and lambasting him for diverting land preservation money to help balance the budget during his tenure.

"Governor O'Malley did not cut funding to the Chesapeake Bay Fund," the O'Malley campaign said. "But he did make the tough decisions to make sure that Bay programs -- including Program Open Space -- were funded, along with the state's other priorities. It was actually Bob Ehrlich who diverted $420 million in Program Open Space funds ... after imposing his flush tax on every Maryland family."

Essex boats.jpgAsked by reporters about the diversion of land preservation funding, Ehrlich acknowledged that his administration had done "a little bit of that" but then sought to brush aside the issue.

"This 'he said, she said' is not leadership," Ehrlich said. "I would put our environmental record up against anyone's."

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group that has endorsed O'Malley, soon rallied to his side.

"You gotta admit, the guy's got chutzpah," Cindy Schwartz, the league's executive director, said of Ehrlich in a statement. "Governor Ehrlich has no credibility when it comes to protecting funding for the environment. ... While his signing of the 'flush tax' is a net positive for the Chesapeake Bay, its benefits are far outweighed by his administration's entire body of anti-environmental work."

By John Wagner  |  July 28, 2010; 3:08 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , John Wagner  
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Cindy, has the League ever endorsed a Republican at the top of the ticket? The league lost a lot of credibility a long time ago when they became nearly pure-partisan (they endorsed one this year, Del. Steve Schuh). It's like asking if the teacher's union will endorse Republicans. It has become all about partisan politics and that's pretty sad.

Posted by: chesapeaketerp | July 28, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

OMalley and Ehrlich have never, really, been serous about environmental issues. Oh, sure, the Dem OMalley has done relatively better than Ehrlich, but that ain't saying much. I keep waiting for our "environmental" attorney general to prosecute chicken farmers, the farming industry, developers, or municipalities over the pollution they pour into the Chesapeake Bay. There is lots of hot air out there but no action.

Posted by: VikingRider | July 28, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I was standing right next to John Wagner at Ehrlich's event today in Essex.

After Bob spoke, I asked Wagner if he'd like to interview an active environmentalist who supports Ehrlich (me). He shrugged "no" and excused himself to get a bottle of water. He could not have looked less interested in talking to me.

I am dismayed that this Washington Post reporter sought out Cindy Schwartz's biased, unfair views without making any effort to talk to someone like me who might possibly refute her.

All he needed to do was make a quarter turn to his right and ask away.

I'm sorry I need to write this, because most of Wagner's article is well done. One person in the campaign told me that he tends to be reasonably fair.

I can't say the same about the Maryland LCV though. ChesapeakeTerp is exactly right: the LCV is little more than a Democratic organ. If this wasn't clear to everyone before, it became obvious last winter when LCV endorsed O'Malley several months before they knew whether or not Ehrlich would be running.

No need for LCV to find out who the GOP candidate is before endorsing the Democrat. Talk about chutzpah.

For some details on LCV bias, go here:

and here:

Posted by: Kayak369 | July 28, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

So is O'Malley opposed to the flush tax? Or was his spokesman just taking a cheap shot at Ehrlich ("his flush tax")?

Posted by: member8 | July 29, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Both O'Malley and Ehrlich are political lightweights, and both should be tossed into the bay like an undersized crab. O'Malley will get my vote simply because he is less annoying than Ehrlich. Sad, but true.

Posted by: YouMustBeJoking | July 29, 2010 6:12 AM | Report abuse

So, there seems to be these grey squishy things in our heads called brains. Let's see if we can use them…

Say there is a pro-environment group (lets call them “League of Smonshervation Voters”) that advocates for the strongest possible pro-environment legislation, tracks the votes of legislators, evaluates their leadership and actions on issues regarding the environment, and then makes endorsements based on the track records of these legislators in hopes of electing the strongest and most effective pro-environment candidates in order to make progress on the issues that are most near and dear to their hearts. Now let’s say, for sake of argument, that there actually existed a Republican candidate for office who didn't just pay lip-service to the environment, but actually voted for and advocated for pro-environment legislation. Why would that pro-environment group not endorse that candidate, just because the candidate was a Republican? Answer: they wouldn't. It would be self-defeating and illogical. But that is how Republican's think, especially those who regularly vote against their own interests because they are so blinded by partisanship that they refuse to see the truth and instead create their own fantasy world where Republican's are pro-environment, pro-teacher, pro-union, pro-balanced budgets, and any other number of improvable delusions just so they can feel good about voting for a Republican and staying in their bubble, isolated from reality.

Oh, and I was standing right next to John Wagner at Ehrlich's event in Essex too. An Ehrlich supporter gave him the finger, kicked a homeless man, and then spit on someone’s baby. Folks, if you don’t see something with your own eyes, don’t believe it.

Posted by: ASmith23 | August 2, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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