Gov. Martin O'Malley has defeated former Gov. Bob Ehrlich in Maryland -- again. And this time it appears the loss has knocked out Ehrlich's future political aspirations.
Ehrlich congratulated his Democratic opponent in a speech to supporters at the state fairgrounds in Baltimore County. Ehrlich added that his defeat closes a chapter in his life, referring to his time in public office as a state legislator, congressman and governor as "a pretty good ride."
He joked about whether his wife, Kendel, would let him back on the radio show they co-hosted before he decided to run again for governor.
O'Malley said in his acceptance speech that there are "a lot of tough days still ahead of us." He said the U.S. is "not out of the deep hole that our country's economy was driven into, but we are coming back."
NBC4's Chris Gordon reported that when Barbara Mikulski gave her victory speech at the O'Malley watch party earlier in the evening, the room didn't know that NBC News had projected O'Malley as the winner.
Last time around, O'Malley won by 6 percentage points. This race's margin of victory could be bigger. With 75 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, O'Malley had a 12-point lead on Ehrlich.
The rematch featured negative advertising and sniping debates between Maryland's two biggest political rivals.
O'Malley's victory provided a bright spot for Democrats suffering big losses in both congressional and governors' races. His first term was hampered largely by the recession, which made budget cuts routine over the last three years. Still, the governor emphasized throughout the campaign that he has worked hard to protect priorities in public safety and education while positioning Maryland to weather the recession better than most states.
Voters who supported O'Malley said they believed he had managed well under difficult circumstances.
"Even though we've been in a bad economy, he's made the best of a really crappy situation and not made promises that were hard to keep," said Susan Arnett, 28, a Baltimore Fire Department paramedic.
Other O'Malley supporters couldn't recall any big positive achievements during the Ehrlich administration.
"I can't remember that he did anything that made me happy or improved my condition," said Marna Bornick, a retired airline passenger service agent living in Annapolis.
O'Malley had several things going for him, including Ehrlich's trouble capitalizing on anti-incumbent sentiment because he was governor just before O'Malley. Also, the tea party doesn't have much of a presence in Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. And Maryland has been able to somewhat avoid the severity of the recession because the state neighbors the nation's capital, and the federal government employs many state residents.
Ehrlich focused his campaign on attacking $1.4 billion in tax increases backed by O'Malley in 2007, claiming they have hurt small business growth in the state and harmed Maryland's ability to attract business to spur the economy. Ehrlich pledged not to raise taxes, but he never fully explained how he would address an estimated $1.1 billion deficit while cutting the sales tax.
Ehrlich supporters longed to restore some strong GOP influence to counter the Democrat-controlled Maryland General Assembly.
"I'm sick and tired of the Democratic control of politics in this state," said Steve Phillips, 65, who voted with his wife, Maureen, in Annapolis for Ehrlich.
Low voter turnout in Maryland's primary prompted O'Malley to call in the support of President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and labor unions in an effort to energize the Democratic vote.
The Maryland State Board of Elections projected turnout would be near the average of 60 percent of registered voters during a governor's race in Maryland.
Katie Redmiles, a 25-year-old from Davidsonville, voted for O'Malley because of his stance on education and tuition. She said her brother has a chronic condition and has benefited from health care reform.
James Wier, 60, a rehabilitation counselor from Baltimore, said he was a lifelong Democrat but supported Ehrlich because he felt Ehrlich was more fiscally conservative. Wier, who uses a wheelchair, also said he was concerned about President Barack Obama's health care plan.
"I don't want to be influenced by Obama's health plan and I think Ehrlich will fight against the Obama health care plan," said Wier.
Steve Fonte, 53, a financial manager for a pharmaceutical company, voted for Ehrlich even though he's also a registered Democrat.
"I just think he's going to be more fiscally conservative. He doesn't talk down to me the way O'Malley does," said Fonte, who is white and lives in Linthicum.
Fonte said he was not part of the tea party movement but agreed with its emphasis on reining in government spending. His disappointment with elected officials stretches back farther than 2008 -- he said he regrets his vote for George W. Bush in 2004 because Bush "didn't stick to the conservative values of limited government."
"If Republicans get in power and don't do something, I'll be voting against them in two years," Fonte said.
Voters Approve Casino Near Arundel Mills Mall
Anne Arundel County voters have approved a zoning ordinance needed to build a casino next to Arundel Mills Mall.
With 43 percent of precincts reporting, voters on Tuesday supported the casino with 56 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent who were against it.
The casino proposed by Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. could hold as many as 4,750 slot machines, nearly one-third of the 15,000 slot machines allowed in the state.
The site could generate as much as $500 million a year, with about $243 million going to the state and $30 million to the county at a time when both face big budget deficits. The operator would get about a third of the proceeds.
Foes and supporters spent millions on television ads and direct mail.
Democrat Franchot Re-Elected Md. Comptroller
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has defeated Republican William Campbell to win his second term as comptroller.
With 37 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday, Franchot had 58.6 percent of the vote to Campbell's 41.3 percent.
Franchot is one of three members of the state's powerful Board of Public Works, where he often questions details in state contracts. He has not been reluctant to cast the lone vote against contracts supported by the board's other two members, fellow Democrats Gov. Martin O'Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
Campbell is a former Amtrak chief financial officer who also served as chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Coast Guard over two decades.
The comptroller's main job is to collect state taxes.
Republican Harris Defeats Incumbent Kratovil
In the Eastern Shore's 1st Congressional District, Republican state Sen. Andy Harris defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Frank Kratovil. With 49 percent of precincts reporting, Harris had 56 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Kratovil.
Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett won in the 6th Congressional District.
Several Incumbent House Democrats Win Re-Election
Democrat Steny Hoyer was re-elected to the House in Maryland House District 5. With 2 percent of precincts reporting, he had 68 percent to Republican Charles Lollar's 31 percent.
Other incumbent House Democrats winning re-election were C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2nd district, John Sarbanes in the 3rd, Elijah Cummings won in the 7th and Chris Van Hollen in the 8th.
Mikulski, Edwards Win
Six Maryland U.S. House members also have been re-elected.
Among House Democrats, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger won a fifth term Tuesday in the 2nd district; John Sarbanes won a third term in the 3rd; Donna Edwards won a second term in the 4th; Elijah Cummings won an eighth term in the 7th; and Chris Van Hollen won a fifth term in the 8th.
Republican Roscoe Bartlett won a 10th term in the 6th Congressional District.
There is no winner yet in the Eastern Shore's competitive 1st Congressional District. Democratic incumbent Frank Kratovil faces a
strong challenge there from Republican state Sen. Andy Harris.
Harris portrayed Kratovil as a puppet of national Democratic leaders despite Kratovil's vote against the health care overhaul.
In the 5th District, Democrat Steny Hoyer is seeking a 16th term against Republican businessman Charles Lollar.
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