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Some call O'Malley's speech 'divisive'

January 29, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Republicans called Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's State of the State address "divisive" Thursday, with one member of Washington County's delegation warning that there will be consequences.

O'Malley, a Democrat, repeatedly praised President Barack Obama, criticized past Republican administrations at the state and federal levels and passionately supported an end to the death penalty in Maryland, causing Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. to call O'Malley's speech the most partisan state of the state address he can remember in 20 years.

Weldon, a former Republican who is unaffiliated and represents parts of Washington and Frederick counties, said he expects the tone of O'Malley's speech will cause Republicans to abandon any support they might have had for his policies.

"All he did today was draw a line in the sand and invite people to cross it," Weldon said.

In the speech he delivered before members of the House of Delegates and the Senate, O'Malley said he favored continuing a freeze on college tuition, ending the death penalty, offering unemployment benefits for part-time workers and expanding health care coverage to more families.

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Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, described O'Malley's address as upbeat, positive and optimistic. He said the speech was actually bipartisan, and pledged support to work collaboratively.

"His message was, and has been for a while ... in order to get through these tough times, we'll have to set aside our partisanship and work together," Donoghue said of O'Malley.

But Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said the speech alienated the state's Republicans, and said he was hoping for a more unifying message. However, he rejected the idea that Republicans would react emotionally to what was said Thursday.

"We're still going to do our jobs," he said.

O'Malley reported that Maryland remains strong despite tough economic times and a host of other challenges.

"Thanks to the tough decisions we've made together over these last two years, the state of our state is once again strong enough to overcome the very challenging times at hand," O'Malley said in his address. "And with the inspired leadership of our new President, Barack Obama, we finally have a federal partner who shares our commitment to progress."

O'Malley said he was committed to strengthening and growing the state's middle class, improving public safety and education and expanding opportunity to all.

After pledging his support to make college affordable for Maryland students and to protect the state's natural resources, O'Malley also called on representatives of both chambers to repeal the state's death penalty law -- a hotly debated topic in recent years.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said he noticed that very few lawmakers stood and applauded at O'Malley's mention of his death penalty policy -- as they did at mentions of Obama and more affordable college tuition. Myers and other Republican members of Washington County's delegation support the death penalty.

Shank said O'Malley's call for an "up or down" vote on the death penalty also might not have been appreciated, and was interpreted as O'Malley telling the legislative branch what to do.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, was present for his first state of the state address Thursday, and said he wasn't really sure what to expect.

He said most of the lawmakers he has spoken with said O'Malley's address was not a "true state of the state, but more partisan and more political than what they were used to."

Serafini said he would prefer to talk about the issues rather than play politics.

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