The decisive victory by Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the race for Maryland governor brought immediate smiles to the face of Maryland horsemen.
"Everybody's happy about it," said trainer Dale Capuano on the Laurel Park backstretch. "We're hoping slots get here, and get here soon. That's the only thing that's going to save us."
Ehrlich, a four-term U.S. congressman from Baltimore, became the first Republican elected governor in Maryland since Spiro T. Agnew in 1966. The 44-year-old Ehrlich defeated Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the state's lieutenant governor and eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.
Ehrlich campaigned for slot machines at racetracks as a means, primarily, of cutting into the state's $1.7 billion budget shortfall, but also of helping the racing and breeding industries. Townsend campaigned against slots. She served eight years as lieutenant governor under the state's anti-slots governor Parris N. Glendening.
Joe De Francis, president and CEO of the Maryland Jockey Club, wasted no time in calling governor-elect Ehrlich "Gov. Ehrlich."
"Gov. Ehrlich has been a long-time supporter of the racing industry," De Francis said. "He knows the industry. He cares about it."
De Francis said it's too soon to speculate on slots legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session, which opens in January. He said with a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature you never know what's going to happen.
"But what's critically important is that after eight years of having a governor who knew nothing, and cared even less, about this industry," De Francis said, "we now have someone with a long history of recognizing the importance of the industry to the state."