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Martin O'Malley

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This article is about the Governor of Maryland. For the journalist, see Martin O'Malley (journalist).
Martin O'Malley
61st Governor of Maryland
In office
January 17, 2007 – January 21, 2015
Lieutenant Anthony Brown
Preceded by Bob Ehrlich
Succeeded by Larry Hogan
47th Mayor of Baltimore
In office
December 7, 1999 – January 17, 2007
Preceded by Kurt Schmoke
Succeeded by Sheila Dixon
Personal details
Born Martin Joseph O'Malley
(1963-01-18) January 18, 1963 (age 52)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Katie Curran (1990–present)
Alma mater Catholic University of America
University of Maryland School of Law
Religion Roman Catholicism

Martin Joseph O'Malley (born January 18, 1963) is an American politician who served as the 61st Governor of Maryland, from 2007 to 2015. First elected in 2006, he defeated incumbent Governor Robert Ehrlich, and again in a 2010 rematch. Prior to being elected as Governor, he served as the Mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007, having previously served as a Baltimore City Councilor from 1991 to 1999. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the Chair of the Democratic Governors Association from 2011 to 2013. Following his departure from public office in early 2015, he was appointed to the Johns Hopkins University's Carey Business School as a visiting professor focusing on government, business and urban issues. O'Malley is discussed as a possible 2016 United States presidential candidate.

As Governor, in 2011 he signed a law that would make certain undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition on condition;[1] and in 2012, he signed a law to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. Each law was challenged to a voter referendum in the 2012 general election and upheld by a majority of the voting public.

Early life and education[edit]

Martin O'Malley was born on January 18, 1963, in Washington, D.C.,[2] the child of Barbara (née Suelzer) and Thomas Martin O'Malley.[3] Thomas O'Malley served as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Force in the Pacific theater during the Second World War, and said he witnessed the mushroom cloud rise over Hiroshima while on a routine mission.[3] Thomas later became a Montgomery County-based criminal defense lawyer, and an assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. O'Malley is of Irish, German and Dutch descent.[4][5] He is a descendant of a War of 1812 veteran, and is an active member of the General Society of the War of 1812.

Martin attended the Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda and Gonzaga College High School.[6] He went on to The Catholic University of America, graduating in 1985. Later that year he enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Law, earning his Juris Doctor in 1988 and passing the bar that same year.[7]

Early political career[edit]

In December 1982, while still in college, O'Malley joined the Gary Hart presidential campaign for the 1984 election. In late 1983, he volunteered to go to Iowa where he phone-banked, organized volunteers, and played guitar and sang at small fundraisers and other events.[8] In 1986, while in law school, O'Malley was named by Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski as her state field director for her successful primary and general election campaigns for the U.S. Senate. Later he served as a legislative fellow in Senator Mikulski's office from 1987 to 1988. In 1988, O'Malley was hired as an assistant State's Attorney for the City of Baltimore, holding that position until 1990.[7]

In 1990, O'Malley ran for the Maryland State Senate in Maryland's 43rd Senate District. He challenged one term incumbent John A. Pica in the Democratic primary and lost by just 44 votes.[9][10] O'Malley was considered an underdog when he first filed to run but "came out of nowhere" to lead Pica on Election night. O'Malley eventually lost the race when absentee ballots were counted. [11]In 1991, he was elected to the Baltimore City Council to represent the 3rd District and served from 1991 to 1999. As Councilman, he served as Chairman of the Legislative Investigations Committee and Chairman of the Taxation and Finance Committee.[12] During the 1992 Democratic primaries, O'Malley served as Bob Kerrey's Maryland coordinator.[13]

Mayor of Baltimore[edit]

Stained glass window of Mayor O'Malley


O'Malley announced his decision to run for Mayor of Baltimore in 1999, after incumbent Kurt Schmoke decided not to seek re-election.[14] O'Malley's entrance into the race was greatly unexpected,[15] and he faced initial difficulties, being the only caucasian candidate for Mayor of a city which is predominantly African-American.[16] O'Malley's strongest opponents in the crowded Democratic primary of seven were former City Councilman Carl Stokes, Baltimore Register of Wills Mary Conaway, and Council President Lawrence Bell.[17] In his campaign, O'Malley focused on reducing crime, and received the endorsement of several key African-American lawmakers and church leaders, as well as former Mayor of Baltimore and Maryland Governor, William Donald Schaefer.[18] On September 14, O'Malley won the Democratic primary with 53%.[19] O'Malley went on to win the general election with 90% of the vote, defeating Republican nominee David Tufaro.[20][21]

In 2003, O'Malley ran for re-election. He was challenged in the Democratic primary by four candidates, but defeated them with 67% of the vote.[22] In the general election, he won re-election with 87% of the vote.[23]


During his first mayoral campaign, O'Malley focused on a message of reducing crime. In his first year in office, O'Malley adopted a statistics-based tracking system called CitiStat, modeled after Compstat, a crime management program first employed in the mid-1990s in New York City. The system logged every call for service into a database for analysis. The Washington Post wrote in 2006 that Baltimore's "homicide rate remains stubbornly high and its public school test scores disappointingly low. But CitiStat has saved an estimated $350 million and helped generate the city's first budget surplus in years."[24] In 2004, CitiStat accountability tool won Harvard University's "Innovations in American Government" award.[25] The system garnered interest from Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty[24] as well as crime officials from Britain.[26]

In 2004, O'Malley spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, arguing that 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was a better choice on homeland security than President George W. Bush.[27]

While running for governor in 2006, O'Malley said violent crime in Baltimore declined 37% while he was mayor. That statistic came from an audit of crime that used questionable methodology and became the subject of controversy; O'Malley was accused by both his Democratic primary opponent Doug Duncan and his Republican opponent Gov. Bob Ehrlich of manipulating statistics to make false claims. The Washington Post wrote at the time that "no evidence has surfaced of a systemic manipulation of crime statistics," but that "there is no quick or definitive way for O'Malley to prove his numbers are right."[28]


Land developer controversy

Major land developer Edward St. John was fined $55,000 by the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor for making illegal contributions to the O'Malley campaign. The Washington Times reported later that the Governor's administration had issued a press release touting a new $28 million highway interchange leading from Interstate 795 to one of St. John's properties. Governor O'Malley's spokesman said there was no "quid pro quo" and a spokesman for the County Executive said the project had been a county transportation priority since before both O'Malley and the executive were elected.[29]

"MD4Bush" incident

In early 2005, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich fired aide Joseph Steffen for spreading rumors of marital infidelity about O'Malley on the Internet. O'Malley and his wife had previously held a highly publicized press conference to deny the rumors and accuse Republicans of partisan politics. The discussions in which Steffen posted the rumors were initiated by an anonymous user going by the name "MD4Bush", later revealed to be Maryland Democratic Party official Ryan O'Doherty.[30]

9/11 — budget comparison

During a conference at the National Press Club, where Mayors from across the US gathered to denounce President George W. Bush's proposed budget, O'Malley compared the budget to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In his speech, O'Malley said: "Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most, years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief... And with a budget ax, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core." O'Malley was criticized by Republicans and fellow Democrats for his statement, but in an interview later said he "in no way intended to equate these budget cuts, however bad, to a terrorist attack."[31]

Media attention[edit]

In 2002, at the age of 39, Esquire magazine named O'Malley "The Best Young Mayor in the Country," and in 2005, TIME magazine named him one of America's "Top 5 Big City Mayors".[32] In August 2005, Business Week Magazine Online named O'Malley as one of five "new stars" in the Democratic Party, along with future US President Barack Obama, future US Senator Mark Warner, future US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and future Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Business Week said that O'Malley "has become the Party's go-to guy on protecting the homeland.[33] The telegenic Mayor has developed a detailed plan for rail and port safety and has been an outspoken critic of White House security priorities."[34]

Governor of Maryland[edit]


Martin O'Malley announces gubernatorial campaign in Balimore.

O'Malley considered a run for governor in 2002, but decided not to run; in October 2005, after much speculation, O'Malley officially announced he would run in 2006.[35] He had one primary opponent, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan. In June 2006, Duncan abruptly dropped out a few days after being diagnosed with clinical depression, and endorsed O'Malley.[36] O'Malley was thus nominated by the Democratic Party, unopposed on the primary ballot, to challenge incumbent Bob Ehrlich in the November 2006 election. O'Malley selected Delegate Anthony G. Brown as his running mate.[37]

The Baltimore Sun endorsed O'Malley, saying: "When he was first elected mayor in 1999, the former two-term city councilman inherited a city of rising crime, failing schools, and shrinking economic prospects. He was able to reverse course in all of these areas."[38] The Washington Post criticized O'Malley for "not solv[ing] the problems of rampant crime and rough schools in Baltimore, but he put a dent in them," and also criticized him for being too focused on Baltimore, offering "little of substance" on Washington-area issues.[39] The Times tied O'Malley to the swing of the Maryland General Assembly to the far left.[40] O'Malley led by margins of several points in most polls during the campaign, but polls tightened significantly in the last week of the campaign. O'Malley ultimately defeated Ehrlich 53%–46% in the November 7, 2006, general election.[41]

In 2010, O'Malley announced his intention to run for re-election, while Ehrlich announced he would also run, setting up a rematch of 2006. Despite major losses for Democrats nationwide, O'Malley defeated Ehrlich 56%–42%, receiving just over one million votes.[42] Due to term limits, O'Malley was unable to run for re-election in 2014.

First term[edit]

Martin O'Malley's inauguration

O'Malley called a special session of the General Assembly November 2007 to close a projected budget deficit of $1.7 billion for 2008–2009.[43] In response, O'Malley and other lawmakers passed a tax plan that would raise total state tax collections by 14%.[44] In April 2009, O'Malley signed a traffic speed camera enforcement law, a bill which he supported and fought for in order to help raise revenue to try to balance the deficit facing Maryland. Through strong lobbying by O'Malley, the bill was revived after first having been defeated. After a second vote, the measure passed.[45]

Maryland StateStat

One of O'Malley's first actions as Governor was to implement the same CitiStat system he used to manage Baltimore City on a statewide level. Maryland StateStat began in 2007 with a few public safety and human services agencies. BY 2014, over 20 agencies were engaged in the StateStat process through monthly individual agency meetings and quarterly cross-agency Stats including BayStat, StudentStat, VetStat and ReEntryStat. (The EPA would later base their ChesapeakeStat program on O'Malley's innovative BayStat program.) In 2012, Governor O'Malley launched Maryland's Open Data Portal- StateStat uses the data in the Portal to track progress towards the Governor's 16 strategic goals. As one of the few states at the time linking progress directly to open data, Maryland led the nation in government transparency and accountability.[46]

Democratic Party

O'Malley was elected as the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association for 2009–2010, and on December 1, 2010, he was elected Chairman for 2010–2011.[47]


Soon after entering office, O'Malley closed the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup, a notoriously violent maximum-security prison facility.[48]

Since taking office O'Malley has adapted the CitiStat program he devised for Baltimore and applied it to the state of Maryland. This new program is called StateStat. O'Malley has said that President Obama has looked at StateStat as a potential model for tracking stimulus funding.[49]

Second term[edit]


In a debate during the 2010 campaign, O'Malley referred to undocumented immigrants as "new Americans", as he endorsed tougher enforcement against illegal immigration by the federal government.[50] In May 2011, O'Malley signed a law that would make the children of undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition under certain conditions.[51] The law provides that undocumented immigrants can be eligible for in-state tuition if students have attended a high school in Maryland for three years and if they or their parents have paid state income taxes during that time.[1] In response, Delegate Neil Parrott created an online petition to suspend the law pending a referendum vote that would be held during the 2012 general election.[52] On November 6, 2012, a majority of state voters passed referendum Question 4 by 58%.[53]

During the 2014 crisis of undocumented children from Central America crossing the border, O'Malley refused to open a facility in Westminster, Maryland to house the children. The White House criticized his decision as hypocritical given comments he made indicating that he thought deporting all the children was wrong. He then responded saying the White House mischaracterized his remarks.[54]

Same-sex marriage
Further information: Same-sex marriage in Maryland

O'Malley voiced his support for a bill considered by the General Assembly to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. O'Malley, a Catholic, was urged by the Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin O'Brien not to support the bill in a private letter sent two days before O'Malley voiced his support.[55] "I am well aware that the recent events in New York have intensified pressure on you to lend your active support to legislation to redefine marriage," O'Brien wrote. "As advocates for the truths we are compelled to uphold, we speak with equal intensity and urgency in opposition to your promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with your faith, not to mention the best interests of our society."[55] O'Malley responded, "I do not presume, nor would I ever presume as Governor, to question or infringe upon your freedom to define, to preach about, and to administer the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. But on the public issue of granting equal civil marital rights to same-sex couples, you and I disagree."[55]

The Maryland House of Delegates approved the bill by a 72–67 vote on February 17,[56] and the Maryland Senate approved the bill by a vote of 25–22 on February 23.[57] The bill was amended to take effect on January 1, 2013, allowing for a voter referendum.[58] O'Malley signed the bill on March 1, 2012.[59] After signature, referendum petitioners gathered the support required to challenge the law.[60] Referendum Question 6 was passed by 52.4% of the state's voters on November 6, 2012.[61][62]

Capital punishment

O'Malley, a long-time opponent of capital punishment,[63] signed a bill on May 2, 2013, that repealed the death penalty in Maryland for all future offenders.[64] The repeal does not affect the five inmates currently on death row in Maryland and O'Malley has said that he will consider commuting their sentences to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole on a case-by-case basis.[65] On December 31, 2014, O'Malley released a statement confirming that he had decided to commute the death sentences of four prisoners remaining on Maryland's death row to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole.[66]

Political ambitions[edit]

After O'Malley stood in for 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a Democratic campaign event on June 2, 2007, in New Hampshire, Delegate Tony O'Donnell said in response, "It's the worst-kept secret in Maryland that the governor has national ambitions."[67] State Senator Thomas V. Miller, Jr. said O'Malley's political future "comes into play in everything he does", adding O'Malley is "very much like Bill Clinton in being slow and deliberative and calculating in everything he does."[67]

Speculation about O'Malley's plans was further fueled by his high profile at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he received a primetime speaking slot on the second night of the convention and spoke to delegations from several states, including Iowa, where the first presidential caucuses are held in election years, and Ohio, a key swing state in recent presidential elections.[68] O'Malley's prominence at the convention generated both support, and criticism of his record. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman praised his speech, with Ulman saying, "To borrow a catchphrase from his address, his career is moving forward, not back."[68]

O'Malley has publicly expressed interest in a presidential run in 2016 on multiple occasions. At a press conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at a National Governors Association meeting in August 2013, O'Malley stated he was laying "the framework" for a presidential run.[69][70][71][72]

Personal life[edit]

O'Malley met his wife Catherine "Katie" Curran in 1986 while they were both in law school, and he was working on Barbara Mikulski's U.S. Senate campaign and she was working on her father, J. Joseph Curran, Jr.'s campaign for Attorney General of Maryland. Citing his age and his long career, Curran decided not to seek re-election in 2006, preventing any conflict of interest that might arise in having O'Malley as governor and his father-in-law as attorney general.[73]

O'Malley has been called the "Rock n' Roll Governor" for his membership in the Celtic Rock Band "O'Malley's March" since 1988. He plays the banjo, guitar, and sings.[74]

In other media[edit]

According to David Simon, the creator of the HBO drama The Wire, the show's fictional mayor of Baltimore Tommy Carcetti is "Not O'Malley", but O'Malley was one of several inspirations.[75] [76] Writing in Baltimore Magazine several years after the show had concluded, Simon did reveal the nature of a private phone conversation with O'Malley as production of the show's second season was beginning, in which the mayor urged that the show's contents be changed to put Baltimore and his own administration in a better light, and threatened the show's ability to continue to shoot in Baltimore.[77]

O'Malley appeared in the film Ladder 49 as himself. The History Channel's documentary First Invasion: The War of 1812 featured O'Malley in a segment regarding the British attack on Baltimore in 1814.[78]

O'Malley is a musician and was active in several bands and as a solo act in the Washington and Baltimore areas starting in the early 1980s. He is the vocalist/guitarist/songwriter of Celtic rock band "O'Malley's March" since 1988.[79]

Electoral history[edit]


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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Kurt Schmoke
Mayor of Baltimore
Succeeded by
Sheila Dixon
Preceded by
Bob Ehrlich
Governor of Maryland
Succeeded by
Larry Hogan