Sunday, May 2, 2010

Campaigning in Columbia

One of the themes emerging in the state's gubernatorial candidate is the economy. We saw this on WaPo's Maryland Politics blog:

As Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) continued to tout job gains in Maryland last month, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) on Thursday put a spotlight on a Howard County company that has shed nearly two-thirds of its employees in recent years.

Ehrlich took his comeback campaign to E&G Classics of Columbia, a manufacturer of automotive restyling products, including grilles, vents and trim products.

In 2004 and 2005, when Ehrlich was governor, the company had about 250 employees. Today, that number is down to 86, company officials said.

"That's not progress," Ehrlich said at a brief news conference following a tour of the business. "That's not how we measure progress in the state of Maryland."

In an interview, Lynn Eash, a part owner and general manager of E&G Classics, said state policies -- including a spike in unemployment insurance rates -- have made it more difficult to balance the books. But Eash blamed the loss of employees largely on the national recession, which he said hit his industry before many others.

"I think it's just the general economic problems," he said.

In campaign stops in recent days, O'Malley has cited as evidence of progress under his leadership a report that shows Maryland added 35,800 jobs last month. Economists have said such gains were largely offset by an influx of unemployed people who resumed their job search after having left the labor force.

Ehrlich also used his stop in Columbia to continue chiding O'Malley for Northrop Grumman's decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to Virginia rather than Maryland.

"Maryland was never even in the game," Ehrlich said. "I don't want Maryland to be treated like junior varsity."

O'Malley has said the relocation of the defense giant's headquarters is a victory for the entire region and congratulated Virginia officials.

By John Wagner | April 29, 2010; 11:59 AM ET

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