Thursday, April 24, 2014

Maryland's Two Republican Parties

Here is my latest oped for the Baltimore Sun.

In reviewing the letter written by former Governor Bob Ehrlich in support of Steve Schuh’s bid to become Anne Arundel County Executive, three additional points jumped out at me, but I didn’t have enough room to include them in the piece which will run in The Sun tomorrow.

First, Ehrlich launched his political career by doing what he now faults Laura Neuman for doing: Having the temerity to challenge a baron of the party establishment. In 1986, Ehrlich – then a young lawyer and political neophyte – launched a primary challenge against longtime Republican Delegate Tom Chamberlain, the husband of then-Republican National Committeewoman Helen Chamberlain. Chamberlain ran with the support of Congresswoman Helen Bentley, Delegate Ellen Sauerbrey, and virtually every other elected Republican official.  Ehrlich won a close race, and then spent years afterwards trying to build or repair relationships with people who wished he had waited his proper turn.

Second, Ehrlich extols Schuh’s past involvement in political clubs as being one of the reasons he endorsed him. The Ehrlich I worked for seemed to have an entirely different view of their value, once referring to the Baltimore County Young Republicans as, “The Star Trek convention.”

Third, Ehrlich criticizes Laura Neuman for making donations to some Democrats before she assumed the position of Anne Arundel County Executive.  Ehrlich famously courted Democratic support – both at the polls and financially – throughout his political career. Indeed, Democrats like former Mikulski aide Mary Ann Saar, former Delegate Ken Montague, former Schaefer aide and convicted robocaller Paul Schurick, and political hatchet man and convicted robocaller Julius Henson populated Ehrlich’s gubernatorial administration and his campaigns.

If one is going to fault someone for ideological impurity, one has to wonder which scenario is worse: A private businesswoman who gave  donations to her own elected officials who happened to be Democrats (and, later, to the Democratic county executive she worked for), or a governor who gave Democrats broad influence over the policies and personnel decisions of his administration.

As I indicated in the oped, had Ehrlich compared and contrasted Neuman and Schuh’s records in office, that would have perhaps made for a more interesting read. Basing the endorsement strictly on past activism seems a hollow argument to make.