By Len Lazarick
Gov. Martin O’Malley rode through enemy territory Saturday as he and his family took part in the annual Dundalk Fourth of July parade, a ritual that draws pols from U.S. senators to party central committee candidates.
As his green Cadillac convertible turned into Belclare Road at the start of the parade, the governor was greeted by a few loud boos and some polite applause.
Republican ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who hopes to retake the job O’Malley won from him four years ago, walked the entire parade route and was routinely lavished with spontaneous, prolonged applause, whistles, shouts of encouragement, bear hugs and kisses from women young and old.
“It’s wonderful, satisfying and humbling, believe me,” Ehrlich said when asked how he felt about his reception. “We’ve represented these people a long time.”
Ehrlich had served Eastern Baltimore County in Congress for eight years before he became governor, and conservative Democrats in Baltimore County helped him build a big margin in 2002 against Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. In 2002, he got 61% of the county vote, but in 2006 against O’Malley he got only 51% of the 283,000 votes.
People all along the parade route were holding and waving Ehrlich signs. At one spot on Liberty Parkway, a dozen people were waving signs and chanting “Bob, Bob, Bob.”
The number of Ehrlich signs was no accident. Ehrlich campaign field director Chris Cavey, chair of the Baltimore County GOP, had walked the route backward with five people before the parade started handing out the placards.
But O’Malley signs were rare, and his supporters mostly quiet except for a few boos they gave Ehrlich at the Shipping Place shopping center.
Kim Brown was a loud exception sitting along Admiral Boulevard, chanting “O’Mal-LEY, O’Mal-LEY” as Ehrlich strode by. Brown said the current governor got an “excellent response” as he passed, though “not as loud as Ehrlich.” She had voted for Ehrlich for Congress and in his first run for governor, but not in 2006, when she cast her ballot for O’Malley. She said the governor had helped her with a social service issue involving an adoption after she personally approached him, and she would vote for him again.
Tony Paul of Pasadena had a different viewpoint up the street, where he showed Ehrlich a bottle of “O’Malley Whine,” with an O’Malley sourpuss plastered on the front of an empty wine bottle. “It was silent” as O’Malley passed, Paul said. “His entourage was the only one cheering.”
There were clearly state employees or their friends and relatives along the street, with a few shouting to O’Malley “no more furloughs,” protesting the governor’s furloughing workers without pay three years in a row. Ehrlich opposes furlough, and posed with a group of Dundalk residents and their handmade sign which said, “Furlough Owe Malley.”
O’Malley’s day may not have started out on the best note. Before the parade got underway, his aides were reading a Washington Post editorial that blasted his radio ads against Ehrlich, calling them “distortions” and “low-brow name-calling.” The Baltimore Sun had already criticized the ads.
O’Malley and Ehrlich were set to appear in the Towson and Catonsville parades, and Ehrlich was to march in Arbutus, Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Leisure World in Montgomery County. O’Malley was scheduled for Sunday’s parade in Takoma Park.