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Ehrlich wins in Maryland's governor's race


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ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (CNN) -- Rep. Robert Ehrlich defeated Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Maryland's gubernatorial race, CNN projected.

Maryland has historically ranked as one of the country's most reliably Democratic states, but voters here were sharply divided in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat, who has served for eight years without ever enjoying widespread approval ratings.

Townsend, Glendening's deputy, was supposed to benefit from her party's voter registration edge, her formidable war chest and her famous family name (she's the daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy). But she stumbled frequently during the campaign, failing to invigorate the party's base.

Her choice of retired Navy Adm. Charles Larson, a former Republican, as her running mate upset black leaders who hoped she would choose an African-American, and she faces a probe into the major crime program that was directly under her supervision.

She also under-performed in the September 10 primary, losing 20 percent of the vote to Robert Fustero, a retired grocery clerk and political unknown who spent less than $1,000 on the race (Townsend had spent more than $2.3 million).

Meanwhile, Republicans united strongly behind telegenic Rep. Robert Ehrlich, who appealed directly to black voters by choosing state Republican Chairman Michael Steele, an African-American attorney, as his running mate.

Ehrlich received a nice boost with the endorsement of the Maryland State Troopers Association, which was viewed as a slap at Townsend since she has been the head of the state's crime-fighting program.

Ehrlich might have hurt himself, however, by saying he may roll back some gun-control laws, which remain highly popular among voters, especially in the crucial Washington, D.C. suburbs.

Polls showed Townsend's support has fallen below 50 percent this summer, and the two were in a statistical dead heat going into the election.

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