Mayor asked to speak in Boston
Only Marylander to talk at Democratic convention; Speech could lift
national profile; Cities' homeland security role seen as his key theme
By Laura Vozzella
July 14, 2004
Mayor Martin O'Malley will be a featured speaker at the Democratic
National Convention in Boston this month, when he will have a chance to
raise his national profile and air complaints about the burden of
homeland security on American cities.
O'Malley was the only mayor and the only Marylander included on a list
of about a dozen speakers announced yesterday by the convention
He is slated to talk July 28, the next-to-last day of the four-day
convention and the same day that Sen. John Edwards, the presumptive
vice presidential nominee, will give his address. Sen. John Kerry will
speak the next night, when he is expected to formally accept the
party's presidential nomination.
"Mayor O'Malley's overwhelming support for first-responders and
leadership in homeland security make him the perfect speaker on
Wednesday to represent John Kerry's vision of a stronger, more secure
America," said Lina Garcia, press secretary for the convention.
O'Malley, who was in Ireland yesterday on tour with his Celtic rock
band, issued a statement saying he was honored to have been asked to
speak on behalf of Kerry - and America's mayors.
"Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards understand that America's cities are
on the front line for homeland security," the statement said. "They
will provide our firefighters and police officers with the support that
has been lacking since September 11, 2001."
Just how much national exposure the speech gives O'Malley will depend
on what hour of the day it is delivered, with later being better for
the mayor, political observers say.
O'Malley's address has not been scheduled and could be the first speech
of the day, at 4 p.m., Garcia said. The speeches are expected to
continue until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. each day.
But Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party,
said it was his understanding that the mayor would be slotted for "at
least 7 p.m. on."
"It's very exciting for Maryland whenever one of our hometown folks has
a chance to have a prime-time speaking part and will highlight Maryland
nationally and have an opportunity to talk about what's happening in
our state," White said.
With television networks cutting back on the amount of coverage they
are giving conventions, even a prime-time speaking slot does not
necessarily mean a national audience, said Kenneth Mayer, a political
science professor at the University of Wisconsin and an expert in the
"The three major networks are giving a total of three hours each of
prime-time coverage," he said. That probably will boil down to Kerry's
and Edwards' speeches, plus one nominating address for each of the
candidates, Mayer predicted.
Unless O'Malley immediately precedes Edwards, his speech is likely to
air only on C-SPAN and other cable channels, Mayer said.
"If he's giving the nomination speech, then that's a big deal," Mayer
said. Otherwise, he said, "most of the rest of the country is not even
going to be aware of it. Inside the Beltway, in that corridor, it's
going to get some notice. But in St. Louis or Chicago or San Francisco,
the reaction would be the same as the reaction would be in Baltimore if
the speaker was the mayor of Seattle."
Even so, being selected to speak is a feather in O'Malley's political
cap, supporters say. This is not the first time that national
Democratic leaders have put the spotlight on O'Malley, 41, a telegenic
and outspoken advocate for more federal homeland security aid to local
jurisdictions. The first-term mayor, who is said to have presidential
ambitions of his own, was selected in January 2003 to give the
Democratic rebuttal to President Bush's weekly radio address.
By featuring O'Malley, Kerry's campaign signaled it had no qualms about
comments that recently brought the mayor flak on some conservative
local and national talk shows.
At a million-dollar fund-raiser for Kerry's presidential campaign at
M&T Bank Stadium last month, the mayor said he was more worried
about the "actions and inactions of the Bush administration" than he
was about al-Qaida. Elaborating later, O'Malley said Bush's foreign
policy has created more enemies for America and his domestic policies
have forced cities to spend money they cannot afford to prepare for
Others scheduled to speak at the convention include former Presidents
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Sen.
Edward M. Kennedy and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun