Gov. Martin O'Malley (D)
Elected: 2006, term expires Jan. 2011, 1st term.
Born: Jan. 18, 1963, Washington, D.C. .
Education: Catholic U., B.A. 1985, U. of MD, J.D. 1988.
Family: Married (Katie); 4 children.
Elected office: Baltimore City Cncl., 1992-99; Baltimore mayor, 1999-2006.
Professional Career: Field dir., pres. candidate Gary Hart, 1982-84, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, 1986-88; Baltimore asst. state’s atty., 1988-90; Practicing atty., 1991-99.
Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, was elected governor in 2006. He was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in the Maryland suburbs, and was truly a child of politics. His parents met at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. His father was a trial lawyer active in Montgomery County, Md., politics; his mother worked as a receptionist for Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Young O’Malley attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, a private Jesuit academy in the shadow of the Capitol that also produced such illustrious graduates as political commentator Pat Buchanan and former Secretary of Education William Bennett. O’Malley went on to get a degree from Catholic University and the University of Maryland law school. He worked as a field organizer for Colorado Sen. Gary Hart’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns, and in between worked for Mikulski’s 1986 run for Senate, where he met his future wife, Katie, the daughter of Joseph Curran, the longest-serving attorney general in Maryland history. After law school, O’Malley was a city prosecutor for two years, and then made his first bid for elected office, narrowly losing a state Senate race. In 1991, he ran for and won a seat on the Baltimore City Council. He spent eight years as a city councilman, during which time he became known for his energy, ambition, and penchant for headlines. In 1999, at the age of 36, he ran for mayor with a reform message and won the first of two terms as a white mayor in a majority-black city.
|Martin O'Malley (D)||942,279||(53%)|
|Robert Ehrlich (R)||825,464||(46%)|
|Martin O'Malley (D)||Unopposed|
O’Malley was the kind of mayor who rides on snowplows and fire engines and seemed to be everywhere. He approached the job with a sense of urgency, calling for zero-tolerance policing and demanding accountability from city officials. Baltimore’s high crime, drug use, and murder rates were a priority. He drew national acclaim for a reduction in crime, and he instituted a computerized system called CitiStat to track the performance of municipal government and to make agencies and department heads more efficient. During this time, O’Malley cultivated a national image, appearing on the cover of Esquire magazine in 2002 as the “best young mayor in America” and accepting a prime speaking role at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In 2005, Time magazine called him one of the top five big-city mayors. He played a brief role as the mayor in the 2003 film Ladder 49, and sang with a Celtic rock band.
No doubt the youthful and telegenic O’Malley had ambitions beyond city hall, and in 2002 he considered running for governor but decided not to. In 2003, when he sought re-election to a second term, both his Democratic opponents in Baltimore and the state Republican Party groused that he was using the mayor’s office as a stepping-stone to the governorship. In September 2005, O’Malley made the announcement that everyone in Maryland politics had been expecting: He would run against Robert Ehrlich, Maryland’s first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew in the 1960s. Like O’Malley, Ehrlich had an unimpeachable résumé in Maryland politics. He was raised in the Baltimore suburbs, served in the state House of Delegates, and was a U.S. House member before his 52%-48% victory over Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002. Ehrlich had decent approval ratings, but he had a stormy relationship with the Baltimore Sun and clashed with the Legislature on many issues. He entered the 2006 campaign as one of the most vulnerable governors in the nation. O’Malley did not have a clear path to the Democratic nomination at first; Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan also entered the race. But in June 2006, Duncan, trailing O’Malley in both fundraising and in the polls, bowed out, citing a recent diagnosis of depression. This was a setback for Ehrlich, who stood to gain from a hard-fought, cash-draining Democratic primary that would have left little time for the victor to raise money and unite the party.
In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2-to-1 and where O’Malley led in the polls for virtually the entire campaign, Ehrlich nevertheless chose to run what he called a “non-campaign,” a marked contrast to the aggressive, energetic O’Malley effort. He touted his record of tackling budget deficits and his initiatives to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, but otherwise insisted that the election was about governing, not promises. O’Malley offered a detailed agenda that called for, among other proposals, more funds for school construction, an affordable-housing trust fund, a $1 increase in the hourly minimum wage, and tax incentives for small businesses to join health insurance purchasing pools. The two candidates spent freely—together they spent more than $46 million—and did not pull punches. Ehrlich questioned O’Malley’s record as mayor, pointing to Baltimore’s high level of violent crime and troubled school system, while O’Malley referred to the governor as “$3 billion Bob,” a reference to what his campaign said was the cumulative effect of the state property-tax increase and various other fees instituted during Ehrlich’s tenure. O’Malley and state Democrats also sought to link Ehrlich to the unpopular Bush administration at every opportunity, referring to him as “the George Bush Mini-Me of Maryland.”
O’Malley won 53%-46%. Ehrlich, the only incumbent Republican governor to lose in 2006, carried the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland, but O’Malley won by a landslide in Baltimore city (75%-23%) and in the populous Washington, D.C., suburban counties, Montgomery (62%-37%) and Prince George’s (79%-21%).
His first legislative session was marked by a cordial relationship with Democratic legislative leaders who had harried Ehrlich at every turn. He signed a formal apology for Maryland’s role in slavery, a freeze on in-state tuition at public universities, legislation to impose tighter automobile emission standards, and the nation’s first statewide “living wage” law, requiring state contractors to pay employees more than the minimum wage. He also signed a law giving felons the right to vote as soon as they complete their prison terms. And Maryland became the first state to attempt to circumvent the Electoral College by agreeing to deliver its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. It would not take effect until states that cumulatively hold 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win a presidential election, pass similar laws.
In October 2007, O’Malley called a special session of the Legislature, against the advice of legislative leaders, to try to resolve a $1.7 billion budget shortfall by raising taxes and increasing revenue by legalizing slot-machine gambling. A tax increase was needed, he said, to preserve “the very quality of life we all care about.” O’Malley also said, “I did not put myself or my family through the meat grinder of public service to preside over decline.” He sought to raise the state’s income tax rate of 4.75% to 6.5% for high earners, as well as increasing taxes on corporate income, tobacco, and vehicle titles. Without the increases, he said, the state would have to lay off 10% of its workforce, close eight state parks, and freeze education spending. The Senate agreed to a top tax rate of 5.5%, rather than 6.5%, but the Legislature otherwise passed most of O’Malley’s increases. It also authorized a November 2008 referendum on legalizing slot machines at racetracks. The issue had been heating up since neighboring Delaware legalized slots, and the Maryland horse-racing industry argued that slots were necessary to prevent their financial ruin. Ehrlich had supported slots, but was stymied by House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch. O’Malley persuaded the Legislature to authorize the referendum, and despite the vocal opposition of state Comptroller Peter Franchot, it was approved 59%-41% in November 2008, carrying every county.
O’Malley proposed a $15.2 billion budget with $552 million in spending cuts and increased transportation spending, including for a new transit line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties’ stations on the Washington-area Metro. On other issues, O’Malley and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, also a Democrat, jointly agreed to cut the blue crab catch 34%, an effort to rebuild Maryland’s popular species of crab after the bay-wide population dropped 70% since 1993. O’Malley also called for spending $25 million to reduce runoff into Chesapeake Bay.
Like many other governors, O’Malley was actively engaged in the energy issue as gas prices soared. He signed a bill mandating a 15% reduction in electricity usage by 2015, and he supported the building of a new nuclear power plant at Calvert Cliffs. Amid the housing foreclosure crisis in 2008, the Legislature passed a bill extending the foreclosure timetable from 15 to 150 days and making mortgage fraud a crime. On a series of law-and-order measures, the Legislature agreed to expand the state’s DNA database to include samples from persons arrested as well as those convicted of crimes. O’Malley, a death-penalty opponent, was unable to persuade the General Assembly to abolish the death penalty, but he delayed issuing new lethal injection guidelines in 2007 and 2008. Maryland’s Supreme Court in 2006 ruled the state’s lethal injection procedure was invalid. Lawmakers also rejected O’Malley’s proposal for increased use of speed cameras on Maryland roads.
After the passage of his $1.4 billion tax increase, O’Malley’s job-approval ratings declined but then rebounded somewhat in 2008. He endorsed Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, but she lost the Maryland primary to Barack Obama in February 2008. Meanwhile, former Gov. Ehrlich, who had launched a radio talk show, barraged the airwaves with criticism of O’Malley. He also began raising money, but polls in late 2008 showed him running far behind O’Malley.