Standing outside his parents' home in this working-class neighborhood, Rep. Robert Ehrlich announced this morning that he will seek the Republican nomination for governor.

Ehrlich said he wanted to announce he was running for governor at the house because, "it's my foundation for this very day." He praised his "two working parents" and said he learned values in their home.

Ehrlich planned to campaign this afternoon in Montgomery County and host an evening fund raiser at a downtown Baltimore hotel.

The congressman is the first major candidate to officially enter the race to replace Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening, who is completing his second term and cannot run again because of term limits.

Republican officials and party leaders encouraged Ehrlich to run because they consider him the only Republican with a chance to defeat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Ehrlich, 44, was elected to Congress in 1994. His district was redrawn substantially this year. It covers parts of the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford and a bit of Baltimore city.

Ehrlich began talking last summer about entering the race. He repeatedly postponed an announcement while deciding whether it would be best for him and for the Republican Party to stay in Congress or try to become the first Republican to win a statewide race since Spiro T. Agnew was elected governor in 1966.

Townsend has not formally announced her candidacy, but is clearly running for the Democratic nomination. She visited Montgomery County today for a tour that had all the trappings of a campaign event. Townsend's aides say she will not disclose her political plans until after the General Assembly session ends April 8.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is also considered a possible Democratic candidate. At a fund raiser Sunday, O'Malley said he will wait until after the legislative session to make his decision and possibly until the July 1 filing deadline.

The only other announced candidate is Republican Ross Pierpont, 84, a frequent candidate for elective office.

The primary election in Maryland is Sept. 10, and the general election is Nov. 5.