Volume 13, Issue 2 ~ January 13-19, 2005
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An Election Bet: Marylanders Will Seek for A Pro-Environment Governor

Flash forward to next year. Gov. Robert Ehrlich appears on your television, framed by Chesapeake Bay.

Until I was elected, politicians just talked about cleaning up our treasured Chesapeake. But thanks to my Bay Restoration Fund (you won't hear 'flush tax'), finally we have begun repairing leaky sewage treatment plants to stop the flow of Bay-choking pollution. Others talked, I acted.

I'm Bob Ehrlich, and I approve of this message.

Persuasive? Absolutely. But will it be enough to neutralize an issue that holds peril for Maryland's Republican governor? And can a single issue offset questionable environmental decisions that persist?

These are the questions that Ehrlich and his advisers may be pondering in light of a new Baltimore Sun poll showing that Marylanders' concerns about the environment have grown, not ebbed.

The poll of 800 found that the environment is among the top four issues people want addressed in the General Assembly along with education, health care and budget matters. Eight percent listed the environment as the issue of their top concern - up considerably from five percent a year ago.

In addition, nearly one-third of Marylanders believe the condition of the Chesapeake has worsened despite Ehrlich's efforts - considerably more than the 19 percent who see it getting better.

Polling experts have noted before that the environment carries more clout than its numbers suggest. Often, it melds in people's minds with traffic congestion and development, producing a potent quality of life issue brew that can rival most any other substantive issue.

Thus far, Marylanders believe that Ehrlich is doing a better job with the environment than with other issues, the Sun poll found. Will that perception hold?

Last week, environmental advocates were stunned at Ehrlich's choice for a DNR assistant secretary who will handle Chesapeake Bay programs - Ronald Guns, a former Eastern Shore Democratic delegate who was viewed as one of the General Assembly's principal obstructionists as far as environmental progress.

Similarly, Ehrlich has insisted on a hurry-up schedule for introducing Asian oysters into the Chesapeake despite warnings from the National Academy of Sciences and neighboring states. It is noteworthy that in the Sun poll, seven in 10 said the idea needs more study.

Then there's the governor's botched program to identify dozens of parcels of state-owned land for potential sale, which offers abundant campaign commercial possibilities for his Democratic challenger next year:

Hi. I'm standing here in this beautiful, state-owned forest that Gov. Ehrlich wanted to sell to developers as part of his radical right agenda until word leaked out. Is this any way to protect Maryland's heritage?

I'm O'Malley/Duncan, and I approve of this message.

Hopefully, the governor will understand the significance of Maryland's environment to Marylanders in this General Assembly and beyond, and we won't be hearing commercials like this.

We're Bay Weekly, and we approve of this message.

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