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O'Malley talks about plans to run for governor

October 02, 2005|By TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

He's getting his act together and taking it on the road.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley dropped in for a beer and a grilling at Maloo's Pub on Robinwood Drive Saturday, just three days after officially announcing his candidacy for governor of Maryland in next year's primary race. It was part of O'Malley's plan to travel the state, "listening," he said.

And he did listen, taking time to field questions from the crowd.

"This is always dangerous - a Q and A in a bar," O'Malley said.

O'Malley heard concerns about school overcrowding, a lack of industry in Western Maryland and teacher pensions.

Though O'Malley was a little late arriving, most of the local Democrats gathered for the "meet and greet" stayed around for his appearance, discussing politics and keeping the barkeeps hopping.

So many, in fact, that when the mayor did arrive, he looked around at all the "O'Malley" stickers they were sporting and quipped, "I accept your nomination!"

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As he made his way around the bar, one potential supporter asked O'Malley how he would handle a race with his likely Democratic primary opponent, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan.

"We want to beat (Gov.) Bob Ehrlich up; we don't want to beat up each other," the man cautioned.

O'Malley was gracious about Duncan and the job he has done as Montgomery County's chief executive. But then, he pointed out, Duncan hadn't had to deal with the crime and poverty that had plagued Baltimore.

Speaking to the crowd, O'Malley sounded familiar themes - including what is becoming his de facto campaign slogan, "a stronger Maryland can do better," and talking to his more rural audience about their "neighbors in Baltimore" and how he believed the city had progressed in terms of crime reduction and improved education during his administration.

"Your neighbors in the city of Baltimore have returned to the tradition of progress," O'Malley said.

"This election should not be a contest of personalities; it should not be about parties," he said. "It should be about progress."

As O'Malley prepared to make his official announcement this week, Duncan's camp sent a barrage of releases to state media representatives disputing the mayor's claims about crime and education in Baltimore, noting that test scores in the city remain the lowest in the state and charging that violent crime had actually risen there in 2004.

Asked by The Herald-Mail if he had a response, O'Malley said, "not really." While he didn't dispute the figures ("Those numbers are there for anybody to pull," he conceded), he did add that "you'd be sore-pressed to find any other city making as much progress as we have."

O'Malley did take a few shots at Ehrlich, Maryland's first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew.

"Are we moving forward when we say in an election year that we're against all taxes and then raise fees, property taxes and college tuition?" O'Malley said.

"We need to have enough respect for each other to compromise," he added. "It seems like in Annapolis now, compromise has become a dirty word."

O'Malley also tackled the state's handling of increasing development.

"All of us are struggling with growth and affordable housing ... work force housing," he said. "We should not be content to let every county in the state figure this out for themselves."

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