O'Malley enters race, says Maryland is `adrift'

Mayor calls for return to `values of honesty, fairness ... tolerance'


Standing in the heart of a revived East Baltimore neighborhood, Mayor Martin O'Malley formally entered the race for governor yesterday, pledging that the urban turnaround he helped engineer can translate to a better Maryland.

Maryland is directionless and needs new leadership, the 42-year-old mayor said before an estimated 2,000 supporters in an evening speech in Patterson Park.

"While other states and nations are moving forward, with leaders who bring people together, I submit to you sadly that Maryland is adrift," O'Malley said. "I have reached the conclusion that we cannot allow our state to coast or slip backward, because a stronger Maryland can do better."

As O'Malley seeks to become the first Baltimore mayor since William Donald Schaefer to become governor, he must overcome criticism of the city's persistent crime and struggling schools. He must also convince voters that his vision for the state is better than that of the person he hopes to replace, Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"Like all of you, I believe we must return the values, the values of honesty, fairness, responsibility and tolerance to our State House," O'Malley said, avoiding mentioning the governor by name in his remarks. "And that is why with faith in the power of people and with the belief that a stronger Maryland can do better, I stand humbly before you today to declare my candidacy for governor of all of Maryland."

O'Malley indicated in his speech that Maryland is "sliding backward" on several fronts, saying taxes, college tuition and health care plans are unaffordable; the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River are dying: jobs are leaving for other states and nations; and sprawl spreads unchecked.

"Those of us in public service can and must set high goals. We must lead," O'Malley said. "Our diversity is our strength. Progress is our opportunity. And compromise is not a dirty word; it is the way we forge progress."

One of the state's leading political figures since his 1999 election as mayor, O'Malley declared his intentions after a day of events in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, home to 36 percent of the state's registered Democrats.

He was flanked throughout by his wife, Baltimore District Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley, daughter of state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

He entered the race nearly a year before the Sept. 12, 2006, primary, much earlier than others have begun their candidacies in previous elections.

During the last election cycle, Ehrlich, then a Timonium congressman, began his campaign a little more than five months before the primary.

The early announcement will boost fundraising, the mayor's supporters say, and help the campaign mobilize a growing number of volunteers, which it says totals about 9,000.

By announcing now, O'Malley can also build a platform from which to dictate the debate and thwart attacks from Ehrlich and his presumed Democratic challenger, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

"The dynamics of this race are different than those in the past," said O'Malley campaign manager Jonathan Epstein.

The mayor enters the race with an apparent edge. A mid-April poll for The Sun found him leading Duncan 45 percent to 25 percent, with 29 percent undecided, in an anticipated primary match-up. The poll had O'Malley ahead of Ehrlich, who is expected to seek re-election, 45 percent to 39 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

"He has a great personal presence and real star quality, which has attracted more favorable national attention than it has locally," said Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political science professor.

But the mayor is weighed down by Baltimore's nagging urban problems, including a high homicide rate, poorly performing schools and crumbling infrastructure, Crenson said.

Duncan said yesterday that he will make his formal announcement this fall, after the conclusion of a tour of all of Maryland's counties. That tour, he said, has shown him that voters are looking for an alternative. He said he is willing to match his record with the mayor's on education, which he thinks will be the crucial issue in the race.

"We need someone who is going to put Maryland families first, rather then their own egos," Duncan said. "When you get Ehrlich and O'Malley together, you see the politics of blame all the time. The people of Maryland want something different than that."

Duncan's criticisms are echoed by Republicans. Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the state GOP, said the mayor has "a six-year record of failed leadership for the people of Baltimore" that will pale compared with the governor's accomplishments on the state budget, public education and public safety.

O'Malley acknowledged yesterday that Baltimore has not met all of the goals he has set, but he attempted to portray the city as on the rise.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.