First lady blasts O’Malley, Democrats in Ocean City speech

Friday, June 30, 2006

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Maryland first lady Kendel S. Ehrlichlistens to Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyerin Ocean City on Tuesday.

OCEAN CITY — Kendel Ehrlich denigrated Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley as a ‘‘failure,” accused Democrats of trying to steal the election and slammed the media for unfair reporting on her husband in a speech here Tuesday.

The first lady’s sharply worded speech — which touched on Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s four-year record and his re-election themes — came at a well-attended ‘‘Women for Ehrlich” gathering at an oceanfront hotel. The speech coincided with the Maryland Municipal League’s annual conference.

Her most withering remarks focused on O’Malley, the presumed Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and the Democratic leadership in the Maryland General Assembly, excoriating House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. as untrustworthy.

O’Malley is overseeing ‘‘a school system in full crisis,” Ehrlich said, and because of Baltimore’s failures in educating its children, the Democrats have reason to worry about the election.

Democrats ‘‘are scared because their candidate is a failure,” she said.

O’Malley has admitted that Baltimore city’s schools face challenges, but he points to improving test scores in the early grades as proof that progress is being made.

Meeting Tuesday with a half-dozen residents of the Ocean Pines community, O’Malley noted that Baltimore implemented full-day kindergarten earlier than required and said the results are showing.

O’Malley aides attributed Kendel Ehrlich’s speech to the fact that the mayor is leading the governor in most statewide polls. The Washington Post published a new poll the next day showing O’Malley leading Ehrlich by double digits.

In a Zogby Interactive poll released last week — and taken just before County Executive Douglas M. Duncan dropped out of the race — Robert Ehrlich trailed each Democrat.

In an O’Malley vs. Ehrlich election, 53.1 percent picked the Baltimore mayor and 39.2 percent chose the governor, according to Zogby. In a Duncan vs. Ehrlich race, 52.8 percent picked the county executive and 38.9 percent would re-elect the governor. The margin of error was 3.9 percent.

The first lady’s speech indicates that she may play a unique role in her husband’s upcoming re-election campaign. Instead of emulating the less partisan persona Laura Bush presents in Washington, she seems willing to take the gloves off.

Ehrlich also picked up the GOP baton in blasting Democrats on early voting.

‘‘They want to steal the election,” she said, calling early voting ‘‘totally disrespectful” to the military men and women who are fighting for democracy.

As for the media, Ehrlich said she does not believe ‘‘95 percent” of what she reads in newspapers or sees on television. She also cautioned the crowd to be critical of what they read because ‘‘the establishment media” is against him.