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Ehrlich and The Sun: Once adversaries, now partners

Yes, you read it right. No, it's not April Fool's. But it is a new day for The Sun and the Ehrlichs.

As one might surmise, the immediate reaction among my close friends, associates and former staffers ranged from shock, to horror, to suspicion, to more shock, to (for some) … glee. Simply put, a monumental spectrum of reactions to a quite-unexpected development. I'm informed an equally wide range of responses was received within the paper's newsroom. If only to have been a fly on the wall when this bomb was dropped from above.

So, it is fair to ask, what attracted me to this new gig as a columnist in light of my well-publicized battles with The Sun?

First, I love to write, a fact known to my senior staff over many years in public office. Periodic opinion pieces in major periodicals and newspapers have not satisfied my appetite, however. The writing, editing and promotion of my first book, "Turn This Car Around," have strengthened my enthusiasm in this regard. And now, another writing opportunity presents itself during the run-up to a hugely significant presidential election.

Second, despite Maryland's firmly established preference for left-leaning politics and politicians, there remain many disenfranchised Republicans, Libertarians, independents and conservative Democrats who want and deserve a right-of-center perspective in Maryland's largest newspaper. They do not, however, want to rehash the state's political battles over the last 10 years. Maryland chose its path, and its direction is clear. Indeed, these readers recognize where the clear majority of Maryland voters lead the state every election cycle; they simply do not want the country to follow the same route. Neither do I.

Third, truth be told — and as my traveling staff will attest — there have been many occasions over the years wherein Sun employees would cautiously approach me to offer the secret GOP handshake, or whisper a quiet kudo before quickly moving on. These episodes produced a few chuckles from those around me but were always appreciated on my end. In the worst of times (circa 2005-2006), I could only speculate as to what fate awaited those Sun employees suspected of offering aid and comfort to me!

Fourth, the regime that offered up the infamous Michael Steele quote in 2002 ("[Steele] brings little to the team but the color of his skin"), the one that spelled my name wrong more times than I care to count, the one that sued me in 2005, has moved on. This is not to say the paper has made substantive changes to its editorial content. It has not, and shows no signs of doing so in the near future. But the editorial page under Andy Green has implemented a more balanced and professional approach to its content. In this respect, it was Mr. Green who reached out to me with the proposal to write a weekly column.

Finally, it is not lost on me that my opinion column is a successor to that of my friend, Mr. Ron Smith. The "Voice of Reason" will be remembered for many things, not least of which was his decision to write for a newspaper that was the daily recipient of harsh criticism and vitriol from the WBAL radio listening audience and its No. 1 afternoon-drive host. I should know, since yours truly was a regular participant in the daily rebuttals to The Sun's latest progressive outrage. Man, I miss those days …

But just maybe, my once-a-week effort here will revive that spirit of healthy dissent. It's all about giving voice to a perspective seldom reflected on these pages. What a wonderful way to honor Ron.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007 and represented the state for four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. A partner at the law firm King & Spalding, he is the author of "Turn this Car Around," a book about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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