Ehrlich takes closer look at bid for governor in '02; Considerations: Redistricting may give the Baltimore County Republican no choice but to run, but GOP losses could be a red flag.


THREE YEARS before Maryland's election for governor, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is looking more closely at jumping into the race.

The third-term Republican from Baltimore County served in the General Assembly for eight years before going to Washington and would enjoy a return to Annapolis.

In the past six months, Ehrlich, 41, has begun to conclude that the 2002 election might well give him the chance to do that.

"It's an option that we're taking more seriously than before," Ehrlich says of a run for governor.

In particular, the Ehrlich camp is relishing the prospect of running against Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, figuring he could capture moderate voters disinclined to support a Kennedy.

Most observers agree that Ehrlich, a personable and energetic campaigner as well as a proven fund-raiser, would be the Republicans' best hope for a gubernatorial win in 2002. But many in Annapolis wonder how likely he is to give up a safe seat for a bruising statewide battle.

One theory holds that Ehrlich will continue to talk seriously about the governor's race for the next two years, during which Glendening and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will redraw congressional district maps.

Some top Democrats are eager to redraw the lines to gain at least one more district likely to elect a Democrat, meaning the career of one of the state's four incumbent Republicans in Congress could end in the 2002 election, the first after redistricting.

If, after seeing his new district, Ehrlich decides that his seat isn't safe anymore, he may have few options other than to run for the State House. Would Glendening and the Democrats provoke Ehrlich into a run for governor by tinkering with his district? That remains to be seen.

Ehrlich has all but given up on a challenge next year to U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

After the pounding the Republican Party suffered last year (losing the governor's race, as well as seats in the legislature and in county offices) Ehrlich recognizes the need to do some party-building. "Clearly because of what happened in November, we have re-evaluated what it takes to win in Maryland," Ehrlich says.

Affluent have too much say in campaigns, group says

The Maryland Public Interest Research Group -- with its counterparts in other states -- has issued a report that suggests how big a role the affluent play in American politics.

Analyzing campaign finance reports filed this year by the presidential candidates, the group found that nearly 60 percent of the money raised came from people who could afford to make the maximum allowed contribution -- $1,000.

In Maryland, there were 1,661 $1,000 contributions, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the money given to candidates by state residents.

Such contributions give too much influence to a tiny number of big givers, the group contends. It plans to use the report to lobby against a move under consideration in Congress to increase the maximum donation allowed under federal law.

Swann plans to retire as deputy comptroller

Nobody around Annapolis expected it to last this long, and now it's over.

Deputy Comptroller Robert L. Swann, a 38-year veteran of the state comptroller's office, has announced his retirement.

Swann, 64, served for 24 years as a top aide to longtime Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, who died in July 1998.

The affable Swann continued as deputy to Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who was elected in November.

In announcing his departure, Swann said all the diplomatic things -- that it was time for him to move on and relax a bit.

But Swann has complained privately to friends about changes Schaefer has brought to the office. The consensus-building Goldstein has given way to the mercurial Schaefer, leaving little room for holdovers -- even knowledgeable ones, such as Swann.

Pub Date: 9/14/99

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