BALTIMORE-Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor Wednesday evening, after spending a day stumping for votes in the political backyard of his chief rival.
“I believe we must return the values of honesty, fairness, responsibility and tolerance to our State House,” O’Malley told a crowd of well over a thousand supporters and friends gathered in Baltimore’s Patterson Park. He did not mention the incumbent governor, Republican Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., by name.
He said that in his travels about the state he has reached the conclusion that “we can not allow our state to coast or slip backwards.”
The formal announcement of what the mayor called “the worst kept secret in Maryland politics” came at the end of a day of campaigning in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties — the state’s two most populous counties and home to one of every three registered Democrats in Maryland.
O’Malley began the day in Rockville, where he was born and raised. The candidate considered to be his toughest rival for the nomination, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, is also a Rockville native.
Accompanied by his four children, his wife, District Court Judge Catherine Curran O’Malley, and his mother, Barbara, who introduced him, the 42-year-old Baltimore mayor said he had spent “half his life in Montgomery County” – a refrain likely to be heard often in the weeks to come as O’Malley seeks to find a way to connect with voters outside the Baltimore metropolitan area.
“I chose Rockville (for a rally) because I wanted to come home, and this is where I learned my most important lessons in life,” O’Malley said.
Among those turning out to greet him was Rockville’s mayor, Laurence Giammo, who says he has been “positively impressed with (O’Malley’s) leadership ability,” and is apparently no great fan of Duncan’s, who, he said, lacks credibility.
The Rockville rally of about 100 people was well within sight of the county government complex where, aides to the county executive said, Duncan was working in his office.
Duncan, a former mayor of Rockville and three-term county executive, has been unusually aggressive in attacking O’Malley and his voting record so early on the campaign, a fact not lost on some Montgomery County voters accustomed to more substantive politics.
Stacey Gurian-Sherman, 48, a bystander at the rally said she is “still on the fence” in terms of whom she is supporting. She said she had been a Duncan supporter but was put off by what she termed his negative campaigning.
“I’m here with equal levels of admiration and disgust,” she said. “I’m disgusted with Duncan’s negative campaign.”
For his part, the county executive was unapologetic about his discussions of O’Malley’s record. “I’m going to talk about my opponent’s record,” he said in a telephone interview. ” … the voters need to know what he has done and what he hasn’t.”
Duncan said voters in the Democratic primary will “have a great choice” between him and O’Malley. He said he needed to visit a few more Maryland counties in the next few weeks, and then he would announce his own candidacy,
“A lot of people like Doug Duncan but they think Mayor O’Malley is worth considering,” said Lori Pellnitz, 43, a business researcher from Gaithersburg. “They are not closed-minded about it, and they are giving him a chance.” Though he is popular in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, O’Malley can not afford to leave the voter-rich Washington suburbs to Duncan uncontested – just as Duncan must work hard in the Baltimore region to try to cut into the mayor’s vote totals there.