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Gov. Martin O'Malley Wins 2nd Term In Maryland | News

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Gov. Martin O'Malley Wins 2nd Term In Maryland
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BALTIMORE (AP) -- Democratic incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley won a second term in a rematch with Republican former Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Tuesday in a race that 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.

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"We are going to have a lot of tough days still ahead of us. We are not out of the deep hole that our country's economy was driven into, but we are coming back," O'Malley said at his victory rally in Baltimore.

With 79 percent of precincts reporting, O'Malley had 55 percent of the vote to Ehrlich's 43 percent.

Ehrlich congratulated O'Malley in a concession speech at the state fairgrounds in Timonium, adding that his defeat closes a chapter in his life. He referred to his time in public office as a state legislator, congressman and governor as "a pretty good ride." He also described the campaign as a tough fight.

"We are competitors, and competitors fight and believe me, I was born to fight," Ehrlich said. "I was raised to fight. I was raised to compete, but tonight is at an end, and we wish him well and the state well. This is our state, and we wish him well and we congratulate him."

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.

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