In his quest to become governor of Maryland, Rep. Bob Ehrlich planned to take Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez to West Baltimore this week to set in motion a plan to help the predominantly black New Psalmist Baptist Church buy run-down HUD properties in the neighborhood.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State immediately pounced. "This is nothing less than 'faith-based' vote buying," protested the group's Barry Lynn. But Rep. Erhlich wouldn't be deterred: "I'm going places Republican candidates have never gone."
Rep. Ehrlich is also warning voters about the potentially race-charged political rhetoric of his likely Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. Mrs. Townsend hired as her media adviser Bob Shrum, who four years ago helped reelect Gov. Parris Glendening with nasty 30-second ads claiming Republican Ellen Sauerbrey was racist, based on two votes in the state legislature-an anti-discrimination bill also opposed by black Democrats, and a "hate crimes" bill about sexual orientation, not race.