updated 7/21/2005 4:47:18 PM ET 2005-07-21T20:47:18

Gov. Robert Ehrlich said he would examine private clubs' membership policies when he schedules future fundraisers and encourage a country club where he held a recent event to integrate its membership.

During an appearance Tuesday on cable television station NewsChannel 8, Ehrlich said he agreed with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the first black to hold statewide office in Maryland, that the Elkridge Club in Baltimore should accept black members.

"Mike has also said, 'Look, we're about opportunity; we're about opening up opportunity,'" Ehrlich said. "He would encourage the club obviously to welcome African-American members. That's the same answer I had given. That's quite obvious."

"Clearly, we'll look at it in the future," he said. "It's a good lesson."

The club has declined to answer questions about its policies. Several members told The (Baltimore) Sun that while blacks are welcomed as guests and there is no policy banning them from membership, the club has never had a black member in its 127-year history.

Ehrlich is expected to run for a second term next year, and his campaign said he collected about $100,000 at a fundraiser at the club last month. Initially, he had said the club's membership polices were none of his business.

Derek Walker, spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said Tuesday the governor was engaging in "defensive, cat-and-mouse game-playing that is meant to confuse the public."

But the governor said Democratic fundraisers have been held at the club, and at least one Democrat, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith, has acknowledged a supporter had sponsored such a gathering.

Steele told The Associated Press he didn't know much about the club's membership and did not care "because I don't play golf. It's not an issue with me." But later, he said his initial response was "a little more flippant than it should have been" and he understands the anger of blacks and other minorities about the club's membership record.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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