Tax foe starts challenge to Ehrlich in '06

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s increased fees and taxes are already causing a backlash from one of Maryland's leading anti-tax activists.

Robin Ficker, whose most recent campaign was a failed effort to win the GOP nomination for Maryland's 8th Congressional District, cryptically announced plans yesterday to put together a primary challenge to Ehrlich in the 2006 gubernatorial election.

"It's not personal. It's not about any politicians," Ficker said yesterday. "You have people raising fees, raising taxes - the car tax, the state property tax, the sewer tax - because the state has too many priorities."

Ficker took out a small advertisement in yesterday's editions of The Sun seeking a lieutenant governor candidate for his ticket. The ad read: "Prefer female who is tax-cutting Republican, ambitious, intelligent, fearless, adventurous, hardworking and young (age 30 by 01/07) with flexible schedule to traverse Maryland."

The ad - which did not identify who is behind the effort - asked interested people to fax their resumes to a phone number in Montgomery County.

Ficker, who served one term 25 years ago as a state delegate from Montgomery, refused to identify who else is working on the effort. He said they are talking to several people about the top spot on the ticket, and he refused to say whether he might be the gubernatorial candidate.

The central message of the GOP gubernatorial primary challenge will be cutting Maryland's sales tax rate by 40 percent, from 5-cents-per-dollar to 3-cents-per-dollar. "I think what we should do is put signs up at the Cabin John Bridge and the places where people come into Maryland ... and say, 'Maryland, home of the 3-cent sales tax. Enjoy shopping,'" Ficker said. "I don't think you'd see a loss in revenue. I think you'd see Maryland becoming a boom state, Baltimore becoming a boomtown, because people would come here to shop."

Ficker's most prominent example of what he says are the state's misguided priorities is the new $90 million Music and Education Center at Strathmore in Rockville, which includes a concert hall for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. "It shouldn't be a state priority when you have the transportation congestion, and on the same Metro line you've got the premier arts center in the United States, the Kennedy Center," Ficker said.

A spokeswoman for Ehrlich dismissed Ficker's efforts as meaningless. "If he's looking for his lieutenant governor candidates in personal ads, I don't think Governor Ehrlich has anything to worry about," Shareese DeLeaver said.