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Could slots be coming to Virginia?
Marylanders will have little stomach for this taste of Virginia politics Gov. Ehrlich is trying to hammer home.

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Date published: 3/16/2003


WHAT FUN they're having in Maryland these days, having elected a Republican governor and rediscovering what politics with an actual two-party system can be like.

What's especially helpful is that Gov. Bob Ehrlich has chosen to pursue his agenda with a ferocity that few other than former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore would appreciate. But that's a particularly bad idea in Maryland, a historically Democratic state that since the Civil War has elected 23 Democratic governors but only six Republicans (including the late Spiro Agnew). Marylanders don't elect Republicans so much as they experiment with them.

While history is already portraying Gilmore as stubborn to a fault, Ehrlich is using the same apparently Republican trait to shove his program down the throat of a constituency that's not nearly so receptive as Gilmore's initially was.

What's even more disconcerting is that the former congressman ran and won based on a campaign that pitched him as a moderate. Of course, he stumped that way because he knew a hard-right platform would sink like a stone in Maryland.

But now, like so many power-drunk politicians, he's decided that his victory translates into a mandate to pursue his core values. Marylanders are finding out what it's like to vote for one agenda, but elect another. They may have been thrown off by his pro-choice stance on abortion, and assumed he must have a clear-headed approach on other issues, as well.

Ehrlich put that notion in doubt very quickly. Despite the state's moratorium on capital punishment, and the University of Maryland study that questioned the fairness and consistency of its use, Ehrlich was trying to set up an execution even before his victory-night champagne went flat.

Now, his promises of strong commitments to education and the environment have been reduced to bargaining chips in his mortal struggle to bring slot machines back to Maryland.

Gambling is among the issues where what happens in Maryland has an impact on Virginia. Aside from the shortsighted view that it will bring more bettors to the state's ailing racetracks and bridge a $1.2 billion budget shortfall--which is plenty for Ehrlich--all other aspects of slot machines are drawbacks.

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