xml:space="preserve">

The Greater Washington Board of Trade, which endorsed Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2002 and 2006, has abandoned him this year and thrown its support behind Gov. Martin O'Malley in a move related to Ehrlich's opposition to building the proposed Purple Line in suburban Washington as a light rail line.

The board's statement explicitly mentions  transportation issues as being major factor's in its endorsement of O'Malley, who has proposed a $1.6 billion light rail project for the Purple Line.

Advertisement

"As demonstrated by his unwavering support of light rail for the Purple Line and his dedicated follow-through on the soon-to-open Inter-County Connector, Governor O'Malley has focused on improving the region's transportation infrastructure," said Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Board of Trade.

The business group has signaled an estrangement from Ehrlich since the former governor appeared in Montgomery County this summer and said he would pull the plug on current light rail plans for the Purple Line, along with the Red Line in Baltimore. At the time, Dinegar wondered aloud whether Ehrlich had come to the county to win votes or lose them.

The endorsement is reflective of a wider breach between Ehrlich and the state's business establishment. The Greater  Baltimore Committee, which plays a similar role to the Board of Trade in its region but doesn't endorse candidates, has been a vocal supporter of O'Malley's $1.8 billion Red Line plan.

Ehrlich has said the state cannot afford to build the Purple and Red lines as light rail but has suggested he could support their construction as bus rapid transit lines. But Dinegar has said that a bus line would not provide the type of permanence that would give  developers confidence to build around stations that rail would.

Ehrlich has retained the support of other business groups. He  announced today that he has received the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Andy Barth, an Ehrlich spokesman, suggested a reporter ask whether O'Malley has made any promises regarding a gas tax increase, which the board supports. The reply from O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese: "Absolutely not."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement