Ehrlichs Take Their Crit­i­cism On the Air

In De­but Show, O’Mal­ley Isn’t Named Specif­i­cally

The Washington Post Sunday - - Weather - By Dan Morse

BAL­TI­MORE, March 31 — Any no­tion that for­mer Mary­land gov­er­nor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’ s new ra­dio show will ren­der ap­proval of the di­rec­tion An­napo­lis has taken since the ar­rival of his suc­ces­sor — that kind of went out the win­dow Satur­day at the five- minute, 32- sec­ond mark.

“ It’s far left. It’s harsh left. It’s some­thing that we haven’t seen ever in the state, quite frankly,” Ehrlich said into his mi­cro­phone. “ The Demo­cratic Party has changed in very fun­da­men­tal ways.”

Co- host and wife Ken­del Ehrlich am­pli­fied the point while en­cour­ag­ing lis­ten­ers to call in: “ We want to hear from you, what you feel about this mas­sive tax in­crease and what you feel about giv­ing all th­ese rights to il­le­gal im­mi­grants.”

With that, the Ehrlichs launched what will be a weekly, Satur­day- morn­ing show on Bal­ti­more’s WBAL ra­dio. They never men­tioned Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley by name, honor­ing — to a cer­tain de­gree — their pledge not to make things “ per­sonal.” But they re­peat­edly linked the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion to a host of what they called left- lean­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in An­napo­lis.

The Ehrlichs also scored a coup with their first in- stu­dio guests: for­mer gov­er­nors William Don­ald Schae­fer and Marvin Man­del, both Democrats. The hosts took about a dozen calls, en­cour­ag­ing sev­eral de­spon­dent lis­ten­ers not to head to such places as Florida or Guam.

“ Do not get bummed out,” for- mer gov­er­nor Ehrlich said as the show closed. “ Stay. Do not move.”

He has long been the Repub­li­can rock star in a deeply Demo­cratic state. Raised just out­side Bal­ti­more — ra­dio lis­ten­ers couldn’t miss that in his ac­cent — Ehrlich went on to play line­backer at Prince­ton Univer­sity, serve in Congress and win Mary­land’s gov­er­nor’s of­fice in 2002. He was the first Repub­li­can to do so since Spiro Agnew in 1966.

Last year, then- Bal­ti­more Mayor O’Mal­ley dashed Ehrlich’s bid for re­elec­tion, cap­tur­ing 52.7 per­cent of the vote to Ehrlich’s 46.2 per­cent.

More re­cently, the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly has talked about boost­ing the sales tax next year. The House of Del­e­gates passed a bill to of­fer in- state col­lege tu­ition to il­le­gal im­mi­grants. And both the House and Se­nate voted to place en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions on cars and dish soap and to ban smok­ing in restau­rants.

Lis­ten­ing to at least part of the show Satur­day was Rick Ab­bruzzese, O’Mal­ley’s press sec­re­tary. He de­clined later to com­ment specif­i­cally on the show but said O’Mal­ley is bent on mak­ing Mary­land’s gov­ern­ment more ef­fi­cient and im­prov­ing the state’s ed­u­ca­tion, health- care, trans­porta­tion and pub­lic- safety sys­tems. “ I don’t think that’s lib­eral or con­ser­va­tive,” Ab­bruzzese said.

The Ehrlichs kicked off their show at 9: 06 a. m. A record­ing of a deep- toned an­nouncer, af­fect­ing hip- sound­ing ra­dio in­flec­tions, in­tro­duced them:

“ Just your av­er­age An­napo­lis power cou­ple,” the an­nouncer said, “ whose neigh­bors hap­pen to be the en­tire state of Mary­land — it’s the Ehrlichs, Bob and Ken­del.”

The cou­ple sat in front of large, swivel- arm mounted mi­cro­phones. Shortly, a com­puter mon­i­tor showed a lis­tener on the line.

More calls soon poured in. As the lis­ten­ers told screen­ers what they wanted to talk about, those in­ten­tions flashed onto the Ehrlichs’ mon­i­tor.

“ Terry, Perry Hall, 2nd amend­ment and gas tax.”

“ Robert, Owings Mills, how to vote against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.”

“ Mark . . . What do we do now af­ter this elec­tion to pre­pare for 2008/ 2010.”

Keep the faith, the for­mer gov­er­nor told them; don’t move. On il­le­gal im­mi­grants, he ad­vo­cated a path to­ward cit­i­zen­ship that would in­clude pay­ment of back taxes and pos­si­ble sanc­tions.

Mid­way through the show, Schae­fer, 85, and Man­del, 86, walked qui­etly into the stu­dio. They sat on stools, wait­ing to be in­ter­viewed, their feet dan­gling.

On the air, Schae­fer called Man­del the best Mary­land gov­er­nor ever, cit­ing Ehrlich as sec­ond- best.

Dur­ing a break, Ehrlich fielded a per­sonal phone call from Richard Vatz, a friend and com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sor at Tow­son Univer­sity. Vatz asked Ehrlich about his on- air pledge not to crit­i­cize O’Mal­ley per­son­ally and won­dered how he could keep it if call­ers steered the con­ver­sa­tion to­ward the cur­rent gov­er­nor. Ehrlich said he could.

“ Peo­ple like that,” Ehrlich told him. “ They like the high- road thing.”

BY SUSAN BIDDLE — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

For­mer gov­er­nor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his wife, Ken­del, dur­ing the launch of their ra­dio show on WBAL. Guests in­cluded two other for­mer gov­er­nors.

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