The Maryland Republican Party is honoring former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. as it tries to motivate members and drum up cash for the 2024 election.

Ehrlich, who served one term as governor from 2003-2007, will be the guest of honor at the party’s “20-Year Salute to Gov. Bob Ehrlich” next month.

“If there ever was a team player in the Republican Party, it’s Gov. Ehrlich,” said Adam Wood, executive director of the state party.

Ehrlich was, at the time, the first Republican governor in Maryland in more than three decades, defeating Democratic candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was the sitting lieutenant governor.

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Ehrlich could not replicate that electoral success, though, losing a reelection bid to Democrat Martin O’Malley in 2006 and again in a rematch in 2010. He returned to practicing law but has kept a hand in politics, writing multiple books and co-hosting a podcast.

Wood said Ehrlich has remained supportive of the state party, regularly appearing at fundraisers for party candidates.

“The man is very generous with his time and absolutely gives back to the party,” Wood said. “It seemed like it made sense to do something for him; he’s doing so much for us.”

Wood said the party also wants to remind its members that Republicans can be successful in Maryland and win statewide. With Ehrlich and former Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republicans have had just as many governors as Democrats in the last two decades — something that can sometimes be forgotten, given the Democrats’ current hold on leadership in Annapolis, Wood said.

Ramping up enthusiasm is important heading into 2024, with a U.S. Senate seat, all eight members of Congress and the president up for election, Wood said.

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And an event with a headliner like Ehrlich can bring in money to fund the party’s activities.

“We need to make sure we can fight, and in politics, we need money to fight,” Wood said.

Tickets to the Oct. 12 event at the Hilton BWI Airport Hotel are $150, with VIP tickets at $250 and table sponsorships going for $1,000.

Democrats overperform in Maryland legislature

Maryland Democrats got slightly more of their candidates elected to seats in the Maryland General Assembly compared to what would be expected based on how the state voted for president.

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A new analysis from the University of Virginia Center for Politics found that Democrats were overrepresented in the General Assembly by about 5 percentage points. President Joe Biden won about 67% percent of votes in the state in 2020, but the makeup of the legislature is 72.3% Democrats. The last election for state lawmakers was 2022.

Some other states were much more skewed, with the dominant party having much more of an advantage in the legislature. In Hawaii, for example, Democrats hold 88% of House seats and 92% of Senate seats — significantly higher than Biden’s 65% vote share. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the share of Democratic lawmakers is 20 percentage points higher than the percentage of the state that voted for Biden.

It happens on the opposite side, too: In South Dakota, Republicans hold 90% of House seats and 90% of Senate seats, compared to Donald J. Trump’s vote share of 63%.

Overall, the analysis found, Republicans did a better job than Democrats in leveraging their advantages into outsized majorities in their state legislatures.

Why do dominant parties often overperform? The UVA analysis suggests that gerrymandering and geography have something to do with it. Another cause may be “the minority party turning headlong into a spiral of irrelevance.” Essentially, when top-of-the-ticket candidates do poorly, it affects races down the ticket, and the minority party has a harder time recruiting quality candidates and funding their operations.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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