Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 22, 2010

Gubernatorial candidates head west for annual Lincoln Day Dinner

— CUMBERLAND — A key staffer for Brian Murphy’s campaign for Maryland governor doesn’t know where Sideling Hill is.

Delegate Wendell Beitzel begins any story regarding former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich with, “I’ve known him for years. I first met him back when ...”

As for Murphy, “I didn’t meet him until tonight,” Beitzel said.

And with that, Beitzel and more than 200 others gathered at the Ali Ghan Shrine Club east of Cumberland for the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. The meet-and-greet was coordinated by the Allegany County Republican Central Committee and featured Ehrlich, Murphy’s opponent in the September primary, as keynote speaker.

Murphy, 32, of Chevy Chase, didn’t seem fazed by the lack of name recognition. It is, Murphy said, an opportunity.

“I’m not here to make a point,” Murphy said. “I am who I am. I’m a husband, a father of four kids and a business man.”

Murphy said it’s his business experience — nearly 10 years with Constellation Energy as a portfolio manager and just under two years as president and founder of Plimhimmon Group, a Chevy Chase-based investment firm — that puts him ahead of both Ehrlich and incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“It’s too important in 2010 to sit on the sidelines,” Murphy said. “We can actually win. Every poll shows this.”

Maryland has the country’s most talented work force and the best schools but businesses “keep leaving. Why? We don’t respect them.”

Murphy, who filed to run for office April 16 with former Carroll County state delegate Carmen Amedori as his running mate, said reception of him across the state so far as been one of excitement. Republicans, he said, “are excited to have a Republican they can vote for. I don’t think (Ehrlich’s) policies are what we need. (Ehrlich and I) couldn’t be more different.”

Murphy slammed Ehrlich for growing government by 40 percent and said the former governor failed to give Second Amendment gun advocates “a seat at the table.”

“I’m not here to divide the party,” Murphy said. “I’m here to save it.”

The local central committee seemed to think Ehrlich is the one to lead it, if not save it. Local party leaders invited Ehrlich — and not Murphy — to speak at Thursday’s gala.

Ehrlich focused his comments before dinner on what O’Malley has — or hasn’t — done, and largely ignored Murphy’s candidacy. The Arbutus native talked largely of two issues — the future of both slot machines and Western Maryland.

Ehrlich said while agriculture and tourism will continue to play a role in the growth of Maryland west of Sideling Hill, higher technology manufacturing is key to spearheading economic relief in Allegany County, one of the poorest jurisdictions in the state.

He said the expansion of opportunities westward from Interstate 270 in Montgomery and Frederick counties already has reached, to some extent, into Washington County. It’s only a matter of time before Cumberland and Oakland begin to benefit.

“That’s a good thing for Allegany County,” Ehrlich said. “I’m not saying this could happen overnight,” but it’s “a positive trend.”

Ehrlich said O’Malley’s administration and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have failed in the slots initiative and instead passed “very regressive taxes” including the sales tax and titling tax.

“You don’t raise taxes in a recession,” Ehrlich said.

As for slots, O’Malley “and Miller, in particular” have engaged in “gross negligence” in the passage of the legalization of slots, which Ehrlich had wanted from the General Assembly to fund the Thornton education initiative. Now, nearly two years after voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow slots, no machines are in operation.

“And Rocky Gap is what it is,” Ehrlich said of one of the five locations across the state in which slot machines are legal.

Kevin Spradlin can be reached at kspradlin@times-news.com.

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