With roughly a month left before we know if Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will hold onto his seat or if his nemesis, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, will recapture the state’s top spot, the battle keeps getting more and more raucous.

This week Ehrlich went back to one of his favorite political piñatas, the Maryland Department of Labor and accused O’Malley of manipulating state labor information to create a sunnier outlook in reference to Maryland employment numbers.

The Baltimore Sun reported this week that Ehrlich said the O’Malley administration applied pressure to the agency to remove a dismal jobs report from their website to perhaps provide more continuity for the governor’s claims of job growth across the state.

During a press conference Ehrlich depicted the incident as more, “government incompetence” under O’Malley, while the O’Malley campaign characterized the news conference as an “embarrassing political stunt.”

Both sides have engaged in finger pointing concerning who raised taxes and who will raise taxes, the difference between taxes and fees, who is responsible for the vilified BGE rate hikes, yada, yada, yada …

It’s often hard to discern truth from fantasy when the negative ads reach a fever pitch as they have in the race for governor. And of course that’s what negative ads are designed to do, blur and distort, and that’s why they can be so effective.

What is clear is Ehrlich is marching in lock-step with the state and national GOP, with promises of lowering taxes and stopping out of control government spending in a rather transparent attempt to capitalize on tea party hysteria and anti-incumbency vitriol in general.

Oh the irony …

I remember interviewing Ehrlich in 2006, just weeks before he was defeated by O’Malley and vanquished to the world of talk radio and the sidelines he says he dreads so much.

I asked Ehrlich then if he was worried about the growing din of dissatisfaction voiced by many Americans over the Bush administration specifically and the GOP in general and if that burgeoning anger would impact him as he made his bid to hold onto the governor’s chair for four more years.

Of course, I knew the answer to the question and I knew the answer Ehrlich had to give me. He murmured something about that being “national politic” and that he wasn’t concerned about the machinations of George Bush adversely impacting his re-election in Maryland.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

Fast forward to December 2009 as I sat inside the Starbuck’s across the street from the Hippodrome Theater and watched Ehrlich scurry across Eutaw Street while his wife Kendall sat in an SUV.

As he waited for his coffee I asked if he was going take another shot at the title. Again, I knew the answer to the question and I knew the answer Ehrlich had to give me. He kind of shook his head slightly with a look of feigned consternation on his face and said something to the effect of, “It’s tough you know?”

But, the truth is I knew he was going to run and he knew he was going to run, because the same ill winds that blew he and his party out of power in 2006 had shifted by 2009 and threaten to sweep the Democrats into the churning sea of incumbency discontent.

Now, with the primary election over, the death match of O’Malley-Ehrlich redux is ever-present on the airwaves and inescapable. I knew it was going to be a long summer when I heard the first radio attack ads launched by the O’Malley campaign against Ehrlich before Memorial Day.

But by November 5, we should all know how O’Malley-Ehrlich II turns out. The answer could serve as a fairly accurate barometer for mid-term elections across the country and the biggest political prize of them all in 2012.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor