Republicans in Maryland have had little to celebrate in recent years.
In 2020, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden easily carried the state over former President Donald Trump.
In 2022, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox was trounced by Governor Wes Moore, thus ending eight years of a Republican serving as governor.
In 2022, Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, State Comptroller, and State Attorney General won handily.
Last, but not least in 2022, the Democratic Party increased their super majorities in the State Senate and the State House of Delegates.
While an incumbent Republican was re-elected to the U.S. House in 2022, he remains the only Republican in the state Congressional delegation.
Currently only three of Maryland’s nine county executives are Republicans. Historically incumbent county executives serve as a “bench” of viable candidates for higher state and national offices.
In fairness to Maryland Republicans, there are two major hurdles to future electoral success. Both are both well beyond their control. One major hurdle is redrawn and gerrymandered congressional and state legislative districts that favor Democratic candidates. The second major hurdle is an observation by Louis Jacobson in the recently released 2024 edition of The Almanac of American Politics. Jacobson writes “For many years, Maryland was a marginal state in national politics; But demographic and geographic shifts have made it solidly Democratic.”
All this doom and gloom was put aside recently when the Maryland Republican Party hosted a dinner to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bob Erlich’s election in 2002 as Governor of Maryland, the first Republican to do so since 1966.
More than four hundred individuals from across Maryland attended this event. They were there to honor the wide range accomplishments that occurred while Bob Ehrlich served as governor. Those accomplishments include the following:
Record investments in public schools
A charter school law
Doubling of funding for need-based college scholarships
$800 million for Maryland’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities
A Chesapeake Bay Restoration law that The Chesapeake Bay Foundation called “the most important environmental achievement in 20 years”
Preservation of 80,000 acres of Maryland’s open space
Launching construction on 123 statewide transportation projects including the long delayed Intercounty Connector (ICC)
Toughened penalties for sex offenders, drunk driving, and witness intimidation
Establishment of Maryland’s first Office of Homeland Security
Establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Disabilities
Enhanced services for military veterans
In addition to remarks by event speakers on these accomplishments, there were countless unscripted and spontaneous recollections amongst event attendees before and after the dinner. All were positive about the man behind the record.
In his closing remarks, Ehrlich did something unexpected and seldom seen in today’s world where politics is often viewed as the art of taking credit. Bob Ehrlich simply said … Thank You. Thank you to all who supported me and worked with me during my time as Governor.
His action further confirmed what everyone familiar with Bob Ehrlich’s character and reputation already knew — he is a man and a true public servant with an unwavering commitment to always do the right thing the right way.
While Bob is no longer serving in or running for public office at any level, he will never be forgotten.
David Reel is a public affairs/public relations consultant who serves as a trusted advisor on strategy, advocacy, and media matters who lives in Easton.