By Len Lazarick
On the jumbo TV screen in the Exhibition Hall of the Timonium Fairgrounds Tuesday night, with the sound on mute, a clearly exuberant Gov. Martin O’Malley gave his victory speech as the crowd watched mostly silent and unbelieving.
Throughout the evening, as one news organization after another declared the incumbent Democrat the victor, members of Bob Ehrlich’s camp still believed he could somehow pull it out. Told the disheartening news by a reporter, Ziggy Cirigliano, who for years had driven around in his pick-up truck with a huge “Bring Ehrlich Back” sign, said the numbers from Baltimore County had yet to come in. The reporter checked his laptop computer and gave him the bad news. Ehrlich and O’Malley were running neck and neck in Baltimore County, the home county where the former Republican governor needed at least 60% of the vote.
After O’Malley finished, the crowd had a few reasons to cheer as Republican state Sen. Andy Harris was declared the winner in the 1st Congressional District over Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil. There were more cheers with the news that the GOP had taken back the U.S. House of Representatives.
But then a somber Ehrlich took the stage with his family behind him.
“We congratulate Governor O’Malley tonight,” he said, and the crowd booed. “This closes a chapter in our life.”
In this same area of Baltimore County 24 years before, Ehrlich recalled the 93-vote that brought him to the House of Delegates, then to Congress and finally to the State House as governor.
“That ride was with all of you,” Ehrlich said. “I’m really disappointed.”
“Being a Republican in Maryland, it’s tough.”
A man in the crowd shouted “2014”, but Ehrlich shook his head no.
He would return to the law firm, go to his kids’ football games, do charity work and maybe his wife Kendel would let him return to the radio show, he joked.
“Believe me, it’s not sad,” he insisted, but the expression on Kendel’s face said otherwise. It was she who had persuaded him insistently to make another run after his loss to O’Malley in 2006.
But for the moment, Ehrlich was closing the door on any future run.
“This may be the last time I get to talk to you together,” he told the crowd.
Then he hopped from the stage, and gave teary-eyed hugs to a long string of supporters who still couldn’t quite believe that Bob Ehrlich’s political career was over. Again.