As ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich began to speak at an event in Essex Monday, a supporter stood behind him holding a professionally made sign in the colors of the O’Malley campaign: “Illegals for O’Malley/New Americans,” the sign said, with the image of a Mexican sombrero.
When Ehrlich noticed the sign, he shook his head in a “what-can-you-say?” sort of gesture.
The sign was taking a jab at Gov. Martin O’Malley’s reference to some illegal immigrants as “new Americans” in the Oct. 14 Washington Post debate. Ehrlich was immediately critical of the remark.
He continued to pound the theme Tuesday in Owings Mills, appearing with some naturalized citizens.
“We should be encouraging individuals who use legal means to become U.S. citizens, not insulting them by putting them on the same level as illegal immigrants,” Ehrlich said in a statement. “Governor O’Malley’s comments reflect a broader disrespect toward citizenship that has been a hallmark of his tenure as governor.”
Ehrlich emphasized that he opposes in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, wants to deny funding to any group that “knowingly helps illegal immigrants evade the law,” and wants to close a “loophole” in a law signed by O’Malley that doesn’t require proof of citizenship for driving license renewals until 2015.
Asked to comment about the sign and Ehrlich’s message, O’Malley deputy campaign manager Rick Abbruzzese, e-mailed: “In the closing days of this campaign, even as votes are being cast, Bob Ehrlich is getting increasingly more desperate and negative.”
Democrats lead in early voting
As of Monday night, 95,000 Marylanders had already cast their ballots at early voting sites – almost 3% of registered voters, the state elections board reported, with three days left to go. Another 26,168 had already cast absentee ballots from the 108,000 voters who had applied for them.
Democrats made up 63.5% of the early voters and 65% of the absentees. Republicans lagged far behind, making up about 27% of early voters and 26% of absentees.
These numbers are skewed differently than those forecast by pollsters, such as Patrick Gonzales of Gonzales Research, who predicted the electorate would be 55% Democratic and 33% Republican. He wasn’t changing those predictions, since this is first time Maryland has had early voting.
“My sense intuitively is that the Democrats are much more organized,” Gonzales said.
The Maryland Democratic Party and many Democratic candidates have been pushing early voting and the party sent out large mailings of applications for absentee ballots as well.
A Washington Post poll last week found that a high percentage of those intending to vote early were planning to support O’Malley.
Thirty-seven percent of early voters came from Montgomery and Prince George’s County and Baltimore City – all three locations that are expected to heavily support the Democratic incumbent.