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O’Malley and Ehrlich head to polls on Election Day

ANNAPOLIS — Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley and Republican former governor Robert Ehrlich made their last rounds with voters Tuesday before Maryland residents decided the outcome of a rematch between the state’s two biggest political rivals.

Ehrlich, voting with his wife Kendel at Rolling Knolls Elementary School in Annapolis, told reporters he felt calm and hopeful that voter dissatisfaction with tax increases approved in 2007 and tough recessionary years have made the climate ripe for Republican victories, even in a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin.

“This is the type of environment where Republicans can win in Maryland,” Ehrlich said while standing in line to cast his ballot in the school’s gym. “Everybody knows that. You need a lot of elements to win in this state. You need a strong candidate; you need a vulnerable Democrat; you need the political environment that lends itself to crossover voting, and you need a little luck too.”

O’Malley, who voted early, was visiting polls in Montgomery and Howard Counties on Tuesday morning to greet voters. After those visits, he was scheduled to head to Baltimore, where he served as mayor before becoming governor.

Voters backing O’Malley said they believe he has managed well through tough economic times.

“I perceive him to be doing a pretty good job overall, and I think that he’s got a firm hand on the finances, and I object to the top down policies of the Republican Party,” said David Henry, 66, a retired pastor voting in Annapolis.

Other O’Malley supporters couldn’t recall any big 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. “Plus, I’m a Democrat.”

Ehrlich supporters were quick to point to a 2007 special session when O’Malley succeeded in pushing through $1.4 billion in tax increases as a reason for bringing back Ehrlich, who became Maryland’s first Republican governor in 36 years with his victory in 2002. Republicans also longed to restore some strong GOP influence to check 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.

The governor’s race has been heavy on negative advertising and three debates in which both candidates attacked aggressively.

O’Malley called 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. Ehrlich has seen advertising support from the Republican Governors Association and brought former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to Montgomery to endorse him.

On Tuesday evening, Ehrlich will gather with supporters at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County, while O’Malley will be at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.