Martin O'Malley, the Mayor of Baltimore, and Doug Duncan, the Montgomery County Executive, emerged as the two Democratic candidates for Governor in late 2005. Early polling indicated that O'Malley would have the upper edge in both the Democratic primary and the general election, with a solid lead over Duncan in the primary and a several point lead over Ehrlich in the general.
As the gubernatorial campaign intensified, Doug Duncan dropped out of the race, citing the fact that he had been diagnosed with clinical depression. In the same announcement, Duncan threw his support behind O’Malley and declined to seek another office in the fall. O'Malley then became the presumed Democratic nominee for Governor, as no other candidate opposed him in the primary election.
Governor Ehrlich opted to seek a second term as Governor, and did not face any opposition at any point in the Republican primary. When Lieutenant GovernorMichael Steele opted to run for Senate instead of seeking a second term on Ehrlich’s gubernatorial ticket, Ehrlich named Maryland Secretary of Disabilities Kristen Cox, who was blind, as his running mate and was renominated by his party for a second term.
Elected to his first term in 2002, incumbent Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich ran for a second term as Governor, opposed by the Democratic nominee, Martin O'Malley, the Mayor of Baltimore. Both candidates emerged from uncontested primary elections and a contentious election season began.
Early in the campaign, Ehrlich boasted decent approval ratings from Maryland citizens, with a Gonzalez Research poll taken during October 2005 showing him with a 49% approval rating. and a Baltimore Sun poll from November 2005 giving the Governor a 50% approval and a 33% disapproval. However, the unpopularity of the national Republican Party and President George W. Bush dragged Ehrlich’s re-election chances down.
Ehrlich launched attack ads that hit O'Malley on crime in Baltimore under his tenure as Mayor, calling the murder rate in Baltimore "awful" and "an embarrassment to the state of Maryland." O'Malley countered with one television ad that featured testimonials from local community leaders, Howard County Executive James N. Robey, Baltimore County ExecutiveJames T. Smith, Jr. and another ad that attacked Ehrlich for breaking his promise to end parole for violent criminals.
The Washington Post and The Washington Times both endorsed Ehrlich in his bid for re-election, with the Times praising Ehrlich’s "brand of moderate conservatism that offers a refreshing contrast" to the state's historically Democratic leanings and the Post called him "a generally proficient, pragmatic governor" and praised him for "successes on transportation, the environment and education."
In turn, the Baltimore Sun endorsed O'Malley, saying, "the progress under the mayor’s tenure is clear and irrefutable," and that he addressed "rising crime, failing schools and shrinking economic prospects." O'Malley also called upon the praise given to him by TIME Magazine when they named him one of the country's "Top 5 Big City Mayors."