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Ballot Stuffing

Big (Elephant) Guns

Posted 8/7/2002

With polls showing Robert Ehrlich inching to within a few percentage points of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in the likely fall governor's match, local Republicans are slavering over the possibility of electing the first GOP chief executive since 1966. But how much is it worth to the national party to win back a State House the elephants haven't held since Spiro Agnew was plucked from Annapolis obscurity to become vice president? Insiders say that the Maryland Republican Party isn't exactly flush with cash, and activists expect an imminent windfall from the Republican National Committee (RNC) to help get Ehrlich over the hump--the hump being Democrats' voter-registration advantage and traditional strength among African-Americans, a quarter of the Maryland electorate. The only question, it seems, is how much, and how soon.Since Ehrlich technically faces a primary contest (against long-shot perennial candidate Ross Pierpont, Scott Alan Conwell, and James Sheridan), the national party isn't likely to officially take sides until after Sept. 10 "We have received absolutely no money from the national party as of yet," says Shareese DeLever, an Ehrlich-campaign spokesperson. "The anticipation is there, though."

Kevin Martin, a GOP consultant and director of government and political affairs for the Washington-based African-American Republican Leadership Council, predicts the RNC will put forth an "unprecedented" amount of money for a state campaign in this perceived Democratic bastion--"between $500,000 to over a million and a half," he speculates, primarily to woo black voters and the populous and heavily Democratic Washington suburbs.

"They're seriously putting forth donor dollars into voter outreach on a level we've never seen before," says Martin, whose organization's mission, according to its Web site, is to "break the liberal stranglehold over America's black voters."

But not everyone is so optimistic about the potential influx from the national party. Michael Steele, Ehrlich's running mate and former head of the state GOP, expects a much more modest contribution from the national party: "We're probably looking at $100,000 or more, depending."

RNC spokesperson Dan Ronayne says the committee is extremely interested in the Maryland race but won't say how much the national party expects to throw Ehrlich's way.

"We see a very compelling candidate who offers a tremendous contrast to his opponent," Ronayne says. "[But] we don't typically tip our hand as to what we will be doing in the campaign."

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