O'Malley denied his visit to Hagerstown was part of a gubernatorial bid.
"I'm running for mayor of Baltimore," O'Malley said shortly before he entered the hall. He said with that election coming up in November, "I haven't put a whole lot of thought into 2006."
O'Malley said he had been invited to the hall earlier this year, but had to break the prior engagement because of bad weather. He said that his job is a "statewide position," and as part of that, he has been to several rural counties for local engagements.
O'Malley said unions had supported his candidacy strongly when he first was elected mayor and "working men and women have been ... centrally important" to the state.
The Baltimore mayor said he intended to discuss a magnetic levitation rail project for which Maryland is in the process of competing. That project would be a boon to state workers, especially in the steel industry, he said. He said he also would speak generally about efforts in the General Assembly.
Members of the media were not allowed inside the event.
Any Democratic gubernatorial candidate could face a tough time in Washington County, which voted 68 percent in favor of Gov. Robert Ehrlich in 2002.
Before O'Malley arrived, a steady stream of union representatives flowed into the hall.
Tom Krause, a Teamsters representative from Hagerstown, said "I'm just (here), more or less, to hear what the mayor has to say and also our good friends from the AFL-CIO."
Asked if he would support O'Malley, Krause said he had not yet decided. It "depends (on) what he has to say on the issues."
David Perkins, 49, a United Auto Workers representative who works at Mack Trucks in Hagerstown, said he came to see "the current state of Maryland politics."
"I think that the manufacturing sector has been overlooked by ... some politicians," Perkins said. "Most of our workers are concerned about job loss to foreign countries" that don't have the environmental, safety or human rights standards present here.
Perkins said he is considering O'Malley as a candidate for governor.
"I've heard good things, but that's why I came here, to hear him speak," Perkins said.
Anderson echoed those comments. He said he represents steel workers in Point of Rocks, Md., and his company, Canam Steel, laid off 12 employees last week, with more layoffs expected. He said cheap Chinese competition is stressing his industry.
Anderson said O'Malley is one of the people he's keeping an eye on because of the way Republicans have handled labor issues.
Republicans "are killing us. They're absolutely killing us," Anderson said.