`New day' for Md.

Governor takes his oath, pledges bipartisan respect and progress on the state's problems

Inauguration Of Martin O'malley

January 18, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka and Andrew A. Green | Jennifer Skalka and Andrew A. Green,Sun reporters

Martin O'Malley, sworn in as the state's 61st governor yesterday as a 19-gun salute echoed in wintry air, promised "a new day in Maryland" marked by bipartisan respect and a fresh resolve to improve the lives of state residents.

"For too long in the capitals of our nation and our states, we've acted as if our people have somehow lost the capacity to sacrifice and to make tough choices, but, my friends, to govern is to choose," O'Malley said from a podium outside the historic State House.

"In our Maryland, in our one Maryland, progress is always possible. And together we can make real progress, with respect for one another, with truth about ourselves, and the problems that we face, and faith in our ideals as a people."

O'Malley's 13-minute speech was delivered from the sunny steps of the State House after he took his official oath of office in a joint session of the General Assembly - launching a return to Democratic rule in Annapolis.

O'Malley, who had been Baltimore's mayor since 1999, defeated one-term Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in November, putting to rest - at least for now - speculation that the state political climate might have been shifting to the right.

Ehrlich was the first GOP governor in three decades in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 2 to 1.

Maryland Democrats displayed their renewed power yesterday, welcoming some of the state's most influential national leaders, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Baltimore native, and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, who represents Southern Maryland in Congress.

"I come here with a pledge to work with the new leadership in Maryland, across state lines ... across city and district lines as well, and across party lines to find common ground for the common good, to work together for all Americans," Pelosi said.

O'Malley was joined by his wife, Baltimore District Court Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley, and their four children yesterday as he strolled between a private morning meeting of dignitaries on the upper floor of the State House to the Senate chamber below to take the oath just after noon. He then moved to the outdoor podium for the nearly hourlong inaugural ceremony, where he repeated his pledge.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a former Prince George's County delegate, was also sworn in during the brief Senate session. Brown's wife, Patricia, and their two children, Rebecca and Jonathan, joined him. Jonathan Brown, 6, placed his right hand on the Bible next to his father's while the lieutenant governor took his oath.

Together later, the O'Malleys and Browns attended a parade on State Circle, waving from an elevated viewing station as high school bands representing the state's diverse regions marched by. They then received guests at Government House.

Though the day's temperatures lingered in the low 30s, with space heaters warming officials on the dais, the governor and lieutenant governor appeared buoyed by the General Assembly's and the city's warm embrace. They were also sober in their assessment of the challenges ahead.

O'Malley, who turns 44 today, cautioned throughout his inaugural address that Maryland is facing a time of "peril and possibility," an era, he said, that requires leadership and a "belief in the dignity of every individual."

"Budget deficits, polluted waters, drug addiction and crumbling infrastructure are of our own recent making," the governor said. "But other perils, like global warming, the global economy, global terrorism, global migration, are powered by additional forces, many of which are seemingly beyond our reach. But all of these perils demand that we take responsibility to advance our common good."

Though the speech was heavy on feel-good but nonspecific rhetoric, O'Malley provided several clues about his policy thinking as he takes office.

He promised to work with officials in Virginia and Washington to form a "powerhouse regional economy capable of competing and winning on the world stage." He said he will strive to make Maryland "a world leader in the development of clean and renewable energy, alternative fuels, green building technology and cleaner burning cars." The Chesapeake Bay - specifically its dwindling oyster population - needs attention and resources, the governor said.

Having campaigned on a theme of helping working families, O'Malley also said he is intent on working with legislators to make higher education and health care more affordable.

"Working parents shouldn't have to go begging with a tin cup if their children fall gravely ill," he said.

Scheduled to unveil his first budget today, O'Malley briefly thanked Ehrlich - who led the state during prosperous times but was defeated after a long and bitter campaign - for his service. Ehrlich attended but sat in a folding chair in the audience with his wife and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele on either side, not with officials who lined the State House steps.

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