Ehrlich and O'Malley in Md. Gubernatorial Election 2010: Is this the end of the road for minority businesses?
As expected, Thursday morning’s debate on WOLB in Baltimore focused on Maryland’s black community. In politics, the black vote is really like a lot of other votes — they’re focused on the same issues as everyone else: jobs, the economy, health care and crime.
But there are also more specific concerns. One of these is the Minority Business Enterprise program, which aims to award 25 percent of state contracts to minority- or women-owned businesses. (The state finally met that goal this year.) Both challenger Bob Ehrlich and incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley touted their support for the program
“He also, when he was governor, said that the MBE program needs to end,"
O'Malley said. "I don’t believe that the MBE program needs to end. I believe, in fact, that our diversity is our strength.”
Ehrlich, laughed, and called O'Malley's statement a “whopper.”
“Senator,” Ehrlich asked host Larry Young, a former state senator from Baltimore. “Do you think if I would have said the MBE program needs to end, don’t you think that would have been a subject of discussion on your show?”
Each campaign insists the other candidate is lying. So did Ehrlich call for the MBE program to end?
Yes, but not right away. Here's what happened:
"When does MBE end?" then-Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) asked during a 2005 Board of Public Works meeting. The program began in 1978 and has been extended several times. When Schaefer made his remarks, it was scheduled to sunset in 2006.
In response, Ehrlich said the program "needs to end." But he later expanded on those comments, adding that "our collective goal ... is to end this program at a certain point in time." He acknowledged that ending the program would get into the politics of race, which can get nasty quite easily.
The next day, Democratic state legislators called for an extension of the program until 2012 and expressed outrage at Ehrlich and Schaefer's remarks.
Looking at Ehrlich's comments, it's pretty clear he meant the program needed to end eventually, not right away. Because of that, what O'Malley alleged is Only Kind of True.